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Seen As A Value, Enrollment Is Up Across Public UMass System01:46
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Classes at the University of Massachusetts Boston might be more crowded in the fall. That’s because, at this point, the commuter school has seen a 15 percent increase in the number of students enrolling.

Kathleen Teehan, the school's vice chancellor for enrollment management, says applications are up 9 percent over last year. She says the school is also up 160 deposits over last year — about 15 percent.

Myra Ezerins, left, and Melony Garate are two new transfers to UMass Boston.  They say price was a driving factor. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
Myra Ezerins, left, and Melony Garate are two new transfers to UMass Boston. They say price was a driving factor. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

UMass has a more flexible deadline than peers, so when it’s all complete, Teehan thinks the school will have enrolled as many as 7 percent more students — hitting capacity of about 15,000 students. Some freshmen in Western Civilization indicate why it’s a popular choice.

"The price of UMass Boston is, like, really good for me," Rachel Sharon said.

Ashley Train agreed. "Out of all the schools, this is definitely the cheapest and that’s why I chose to come here. Between that and the location, 'cause I love the city, I love Boston, so it was like a perfect package."

Teehan says more people are seeing the value of spending about $10,000 a year on college.

"I think, for a few years running, we’ve certainly started to see a lot of interest in public higher education as private higher education — particularly in Boston — starts to tip over the $50,000 a year mark," she said. "The $10,000-a-year public higher education opportunity looks quite attractive."

Enrollment at UMass Amherst is also up — 8 percent.  Enrollment at Dartmouth and Lowell is flat, but on the Lowell campus, enrollment has increased 24 percent over the past two years. UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan says he expects this growth will continue.

"I think families in Massachusetts and beyond are gradually beginning to look at selecting a university or a college more as if they were buying a consumer product," Meehan said. "For years people wouldn’t do the research that really is required when you make an investment in a college education."

"I think families in Massachusetts and beyond are gradually beginning to look at selecting a university or a college more as if they were buying a consumer product."-- UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan

All this interest in state schools is playing out across the country, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. They attribute this primarily to the economy because more under- or unemployed adults are heading back to college. However, it’s hard to compare enrollment numbers to private schools because their numbers are not out yet.

As enrollment has grown in the UMass system, the state has been cutting funding — nearly half a billion dollars in the past nine years. Meehan says schools like his admit more students to make up for the funding shortfall.

"We use that as a way to increase revenue in light of dramatic cuts in state spending over last two years," he said. "Massachusetts has actually cut state funding more than any other state in country."

All colleges in the UMass system have strategic plans to increase enrollment. If these past few years are an indication, they should have no trouble filling the seats.

This program aired on April 30, 2010.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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