Romney calls for UMass breakup
by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.