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Tuition, fees and the end of the price freeze

David Rudderham

Connector Editor

Last spring many changes came to the UMass schools, especially to UMass Lowell. Marty Meehan became president of the entire UMass system while Jacqueline Moloney took his old position as Chancellor of UMass Lowell.

And of course, over the past eight years or so, the UMass schools have expanded and built new buildings; these buildings now serve incoming students, especially as the number of freshmen increase throughout the years.

But one change happened last spring much to the protest of students and their governments: the tuition and fee price freeze ended.

Amanda Robinson, the current president for the Student Government Association (SGA), was not a trustee at the time the vote on raising fees took place, but she says she “would have voted against it.” Then-SGA president, Phil Geoffroy, was present and did vote against raising tuition costs and fees.

Prior to last spring, a price freeze had been effective for two years, acting as a constraint for the trustees to abide by while they engaged in the other usual issues that face higher education. But the issue of state funding higher education has become such an issue that President Meehan actually penned an op-ed about it for the Boston Globe titled, “States must do more to help UMass prosper.”

“[President Meehan] has been fighting for students the whole time,” says Robinson, citing the article Meehan wrote as an example.

In the article, Meehan cited the Delta Cost Project reports on the price of colleges and their state funding. The statistics are damning to Massachusetts, with state funding for public research universities dropping from $10,983 per student in the 2001 fiscal year to $7,902 in 2011.

In these same years, tuition rose from $5,556 to $9,194. President Meehan explains that the cost has risen for students in all schools and says public funding can not only help alleviate these costs but also make the University more efficient and spend more efficiently.

“Looking at the data, we see a story that reflects well on public higher education and may surprise those who reflexively believe ‘public’ always translates into ‘less efficient,’” says Meehan in his op-ed.

The data in question, from the Delta Cost project report, comes from the American Institutes for Research out of Washington D.C.

But specifically, how much will our tuition costs and fees rise?

Students are already aware of a possible 7.9 percent rise in tuition costs and fees that had been cited in a Lowell Sun article. According to Robinson, that number might not be fully accurate because the state budget has not come out yet and “it’s too early to tell what the budget will reveal.”

However, she also says that the rise in fees was voted on possibly because of a missing 10.9 million dollars that the state promised UMass but never delivered.

“The state was supposed to give UMass schools 10.9 million dollars,” says Robinson. “They haven’t been giving us what they promised.” However, her spirits are not broken: “We’re hoping to freeze fees again for another year.”

Students’ spirits have not been broken either with protestors organizing at UMass Boston, dedicated to fighting against the new costs. Also, according to Robinson, right before the vote with the Board of Trustees, there is a day of student advocacy, usually taking place in early March.

Criticism is not lost on the students either. “They’re using funds to make more aesthetic changes rather than administrative or structural changes,” says student Daniel Rodriguez. “They’re changing the appearance, not the experience.”

Another student, Emma Morrison, has more apathy to the rise in fees due to the fact that she is on scholarship. However, she acknowledges the prices can be too high for others. “I know people who work to pay for school—I think for them it’s really hard,” says Morrison.

Decreases in state funding and the rising cost of higher education could potentially price students out of a University that, according to Meehan, used to be able to be paid for by the student. Today, many families are forced to financially help their children attend UMass Lowell.

“Usually people go to public universities because it’s more inexpensive than private universities, so the fact that they raised it by…7.9%—that’s a lot to raise it, especially just in one year,” says first year student Lily Gillette.  “My parents can barely pay [for tuition and fees] now.”

The burden of higher fees and tuition is especially felt by international and out-of-state students. But with the fee increase, all students and their families will be affected in some form or another.

According to student Rasec Vargas, this burden can follow the students for a considerable portion of their lives.

“You know, they wanna talk about life-ready and work-ready?” says Vargas. “Well, if you’re gonna need to afford an apartment and put [money] away for your 401K, how are all these things even feasible if you’re paying off school loans for thirty years?”

Coverage of this story is ongoing. If you have any information or comments regarding this article, contact the writer at

Samuel Linstead-Atkinson contributed to this article.

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