UMass tuition hike likely to be 2.5 percent

It looks like a 2.5 percent tuition increase is likely for University of Massachusetts students this fall, system president Marty Meehan said last week.

The $43.1 billion state budget that the Legislature sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk includes $558 million in aid to UMass, which has 75,000 students. Despite the last-minute addition of $317 million in spending above and beyond spending levels approved this spring by the House and Senate, UMass was unable to secure about $10 million in additional funds that could have led to a tuition freeze for the coming academic year.

“It looks like it would be about a two and a half percent increase,” Meehan told two reporters after telling House Bonding Committee members about capital spending plans and a $3.3 billion deferred maintenance backlog.

UMass trustees this month postponed a planned vote on tuition and fee levels due to the uncertain outcome of the state budget deliberations. With a budget now before Baker, Meehan said he’ll look to schedule a trustees meeting to discuss and vote on tuition levels.

The Senate’s budget included a prohibition on raising tuition or fees for in-state UMass undergraduates, a measure that died in negotiations with the House. The state budget boosts aid to UMass by $39 million over last year, with most of that increase being funneled into labor costs associated with collective bargaining agreements.

A 2.5 percent tuition increase is “about half” of the increases that community college and state university students are facing, Meehan said, and a smaller increase than private university students are facing.

He said he’s working with UMass campus chancellors on developing a plan “so that we could keep tuition either below inflation or even for next fiscal year where we have enough time to make plans and try to do that.”

Enrollment levels will play an important role in determining campus revenues and tuition levels, he said.