The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVIII, Issue 23
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
February 28, 2003

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin




Romney calls for UMass breakup

by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons, Chronicle staff

Sweeping changes in the state's public higher education system, including the elimination of the University President's Office and Board of Trustees, were proposed this week by Gov. Mitt Romney as he outlined his Fiscal 2004 budget plan.

     The restructuring plan is part of a blanket overhaul of state government that Romney says will save $2 billion in the coming fiscal year.

     According to the governor, the state would save about $200 million by dismantling the five-campus University system and grouping University, state college and community college campuses regionally so that some services could be centralized. The entire system would be under the aegis of a new secretary of education, Peter Nessen, who previously served on the Board of Higher Education.

     According to the Boston Herald, the Romney administration favors a plan to make the Amherst campus into an independent research university, which would be allowed to raise tuition to market rates. Under the Romney budget, all tuition monies across the 29-campus public system would be retained by the institutions instead of reverting to the General Fund.
The Herald also reported that the Medical School in Worcester will be turned into a private institution over a four-year period during which state aid would be decreased.

     Under the Romney blueprint, the Dartmouth, Lowell and Boston campuses would be realigned with the nine state colleges and 15 community colleges under the Secretary of Education.

     In keeping with Romney's consolidation effort, his budget plan does not include separate funding for any of the public campuses. Instead, the document merely allocates $549,978,687 for the 29 campuses. The current allocation for the University system, after a $6.2 million rescission several weeks ago, is $436.3 million.

     Romney's budget also calls for $1.2 million for library materials among the 29 campuses and $143.2 million for the state scholarship fund.

     According to news reports, Romney called President William M. Bulger on Tuesday to inform him of the restructuring proposal. The conversation was described as cordial.

     While details of the plan are still sketchy, the plan drew criticism from Board of Trustees Chairman Grace K. Fey and Alumni Association president Jess Kane. House Speaker Thomas Finneran also defended Bulger's record.

     Chancellor John Lombardi, who left for Louisiana on Wednesday, issued a statement saying "We look forward to working with our colleagues throughout the UMass system to help resolve the many complex issues facing the Commonwealth. We look forward to reviewing the governor's detailed plans."

     In a televised address on Tuesday, Romney laid the groundwork for his budget plan by offering a broad sketch of his vision for the state. Using the slogan "Common Sense for the Commonwealth," Romney said his administration has identified $2 billion in savings by eliminating "waste, inefficiency and mismanagement" in state operations. He also rejected any consideration of new taxes to help address a projected $3 billion shortfall in Fiscal 2004.

     Among his proposals are a $232 million reduction in aid to towns and cities and increasing the share of health insurance costs paid by state employees from 15 percent to 25 percent. He also called for eliminating union bumping rights and barring all state supervisors from union membership.

     Virtually all of Romney's plans call for legislative approval. Finneran declined comment Tuesday night, but said lawmakers would review the governor's proposals.

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