BOSTON (CBS) — President of the University of Massachusetts system Marty Meehan joined WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller to discuss the rising cost of higher education in the state and other UMass related issues.
According to Meehan, the university is looking to establish how much money the state is going to contribute and whether the state will partake in fund-collected bargaining. Those two factors will play into the cost of tuition that is thrust upon students.
“My goal is to keep tuition at 2.5% this year, and we think that we can do it. Ideally, Jon, you’d like to keep tuition around what the inflation rate is for the cost at UMass…I think that’s below where most colleges and universities are. We don’t really look at where everyone else is, we look at, you know, we need to try to keep the UMass education high quality but also affordable. Two-and-a-half percent seems like a good place to be,” Meehan said.
Out of state students pay more than double what in-state students do to attend UMass. “They actually subsidize in-state students as a practical matter.”
About 28% of UMass Amherst students are from out of state but they are also taking more Massachusetts residents than they ever have, said Meehan. “As long as we can accommodate Massachusetts residents, there will be room to take out-of-state students.”
The number of high school graduates in Massachusetts and surrounding New England states is on a decline, according to Meehan. “It’s one of the reasons why places like Mount Ida and Wheelock are closing. Small privates are having a difficult time keeping up because their price point is too high and demographically there aren’t enough students,” he said, justifying the out-of-state student presence at UMass schools.
“I would say the sweet spot is about 30%. If you look at the great public universities of America, they take between 30 and 40%. The other New England publics, UNH, Vermont, they take up to 50%.”
Meehan also said, “scholarship money is higher than its ever been.”
UMass Amherst’s recent purchase of Mount Ida College has sparked some controversy but Meehan said he ran the purchase by Gov. Baker early on in the process. He also said he would be open to the legislature’s new push for more oversight on how funds are distributed to different campuses, but it could be difficult. “I’m not sure they know which campus gets what. But if you look at full-time equivalent students, UMass Lowell gets less state money per full-time student, for example, than UMass Boston does. So it’s a complicated issue…I’m open to working with the legislature on anything. What I’m not interested is I’m not interested in making tough decisions at UMass based on optics or based on a story in the [Boston] Globe. This is a 3.3 billion dollar operation, we need to make judgments about what’s in the long-term interest of the university.”
He added that five years down the road, people will appreciate the Mount Ida deal.
Ten years down the road, Meehan predicts not all of Massachusetts’ 29 public state universities will be in business. “I actually think that consolidation is a must…We should be looking to see whether the consolidation of some community colleges with UMass makes sense.”
This fall, the UMass football schedule includes one game against BYU at Gillette Stadium. Meehan said the games at Gillette are only a good idea depending on the opponent and how the UMass Amherst team is performing.