Lawmakers approve $34b state budget that supports freezing tuition and fees

A proposal to freeze tuition and fees for the coming academic year moved ahead July 1 as the Legislature approved $39 million in additional funding for the UMass system as part of a $34 billion state budget and sent the measure to Gov. Deval Patrick.
Crafted by a legislative conference committee, the compromise budget package cleared the House by a 122-39 vote and the Senate, 36-3. Patrick has 10 days to review and sign the budget, issue vetoes or offer amendments.
The $478.9 million allocation for the five-campus system puts UMass on track to equalize the share of educational costs borne by students and their families and the state. The “50-50” plan was proposed by President Robert Caret, who praised legislators for “opening a new chapter in the history of the University of Massachusetts.”
“With this vote, the Massachusetts Legislature sends a national message of support for excellence and affordability in public higher education,” said Caret. “A strong and affordable University of Massachusetts system is critical to the state’s social and economic future, and the dramatic expression of support we have received from the Legislature will aid us immeasurably as we seek to provide ever-greater levels of service to the Commonwealth and its citizens.”
Caret cited the efforts of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer to secure the funding for the University.
If the appropriation is signed by the governor, who has previously supported the 50-50 plan, Caret is authorized by the Board of Trustees to rescind 4.9 percent tuition and fee increases approved last month and freeze student charges at last year’s levels.
Calling the 50-50 plan “astute and visionary,” Henry M. Thomas III, chairman of the Board of Trustees, commended Caret for his advocacy on behalf of the University and its students.
“The Board of Trustees approved President Caret’s budget proposal with the strong belief that the 50-50 proposal, if approved, would be a smart investment for the future of the Commonwealth and would be in the best interest of the UMass students,” said Thomas.
The breakthrough for the plan came after legislative budget negotiators agreed to support the previously approved House funding of $478.9 million for the UMass system. The Senate had included $455 million in its budget proposal.
The budget plan sent to the governor includes $1.1 billion for the 29-campus public higher education sector, up from $941.5 million last year.