BOSTON (CBS) — Early admission decisions start landing in mailboxes all over the region in December. On Sunday, Jon Keller brought in University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan to talk about the politics of higher education funding and future of higher education here in Massachusetts.

In 2018 alone, Boston University took over Wheelock College, Mount Ida College shut down, and Newbury College also announced it would close. Meehan said more closings of small, private colleges in the state will come.

Both private and public schools have to consider demographics and the fact that fewer students are graduating from Massachusetts high schools. “The competition is fierce for students. One of the things that I know that Department of Higher Education and one of the things we learned from what happened with Mount Ida is we need colleges to come forward earlier. We need students and their parents to really think about the financial health of a university or a college before they attend,” said Meehan.

“In fact, almost every week or two, there is some institution in American that either merges with another college or closes,” he added.

Over 75,000 students attend UMass schools. “We have an advantage in that our price point, between 13,000 and 15,000 [dollars], at our undergraduate campuses is still competitive.”

Recently a member of the board of trustees at UMass was quoted saying the country did not have a student debt crisis, but a “graduation rate crisis.”

Meehan backed that comment by saying the Boardman was looking at a study “that showed that half of the student debt in this county is taken up by people who never got their college degree. Which is a crisis — meaning they don’t even have the capacity to take advantage of a college degree, which means higher wages and being able to pay back the loan, and so I think he was illustrating that. But it’s still an issue.”

Meehan said back when he attended UMass Lowell, he worked weekends and summers and was able to pay for school. He now believes that would be “impossible.”

According to Meehan, there has been a shift in who is responsible for paying for a UMass education. The state is slowly pushing that onto the student. “One of the things I’ve been working on is fiscal responsibility within UMass: finding any ways to save money by buying, purchasing in bulk, procurement policies, having more transparency on our own finances.” It even involves cutting administrators when necessary.


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