DARTMOUTH, Mass. Trustees of the University of Massachusetts voted Wednesday to raise tuition and fees by nearly 5 percent, over the objections of Gov. Deval Patrick, who said it was a “crummy” time to impose new costs on college students.
Tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates will rise an average of $580, from $11,901 during this past year to $12,481 for the 2012-2013 academic year. The university said most graduate students would see a similar 4.9 percent increase in their fees.
Trustees said the vote was necessary to protect the quality of education at the five-campus university after what they called a decade of state budget cuts. They also contended that the UMass increase was lower than the average increase at other state colleges and lower in general than increases imposed at other public universities around the nation.
UMass president Robert Caret said in a statement that he considered freezing tuition and fees, but that would have forced “dramatic and unacceptable” cuts in programs. But he said a larger increase of the size that would have been necessary to cover all of the university’s rising costs would also have been irresponsible.
“We are trying to steer a moderate course on this difficult issue,” Caret said.
Patrick, in a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, said he understood the dilemma facing the university.
“I get the economic case, the financial case … I just think it’s a crummy time to ask students to pay more,” he said.
The governor pointed to the difficult economy and uncertain job prospects for graduates, as well as the prospect of a doubling of federal student loan interest rates if Congress does not act to prevent it by July 1.
Patrick, while expressing his full support for Caret, said the university should launch a “comprehensive initiative” to find more potential cost savings before adding to the burden of students.
Trustees said the increase approved Wednesday would generate about $25 million for academic programs. But they noted that the university faced $63 million in added costs next year in two areas alone: contractually negotiated pay raises with union employees and debt service on a $2.4 billion construction and modernization program that began a decade ago.
The board offered to freeze tuition and fees in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years if the state increased to 50 percent its share of UMass funding, up from 45 percent this year.
“We need to get back to a footing where the state is funding its public university at some reasonable level, at least equal to what students and their parents are paying,” Caret said. “To do otherwise is to take the ‘public’ out of public higher education.”
Total state spending on public higher education, including the UMass system, has been slashed by about $100 million, or 13.5 percent, since fiscal 2009, according to a recent analysis by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.