UMass recently announced plans to increase tuition next year as financial concerns plague the university amid falling enrollment numbers.
The outlook on what the future looks like for colleges and universities is uncertain. As the cost to obtain a degree perpetually rises while salaries remain stagnant, more and more students opt out of higher ed. As a means to combat falling enrollments, many states have already announced a plan to continue the status quo of freezing tuition hikes. But the University of Massachusetts, along with others, is seeing things in a different light. Starting next fall, UMass will raise tuition and other fees for all of its college campuses.
According to reports from WBUR, leaders from UMass approved a package of tuition and fee raises at a committee meeting. The proposal was voted in on a 12-2 vote, with only two student trustees voting against the measure to raise prices. This will mark the first tuition increase in three years, as the university – like most others across the nation – imposed pandemic-era freezes on tuition hikes. Part of the decision to now impose the raises points to the pandemic when many colleges reported steep declines in enrollment.
According to university administrators, the fall in enrollment, along with the historic rise in inflation has led officials to the decision to raise tuition at UMass. The universities President, Marty Meehan, spoke of these two matters as part of the financial challenges the school is now faced with. According to remarks from Meehan, the college’s average rise of tuition by 2.5% doesn’t even come close to the four-decade high inflation rate of 8.5%. Furthermore, he says that hyper-inflation will increase the cost of the school’s debt financing and cost of operation.
While other colleges do quite the opposite and decrease tuition costs to attract new enrollments, UMass hopes the tuition increase will not affect its enrollment numbers. However, Robert Manning, the board of trustees chairholder stated that enrollment continues to be an issue with the university. According to data, the university did see declines in enrollment from 2020 to 2021. UMass Dartmouth saw a 1.3% decline in enrollments.
The tuition increase at UMass that will go into effect next year follows suit with normal increases in yearly tuition hikes. The 2.5% increase will find students paying anywhere from $346 to $395 more per year in tuition. Room and board costs will also be affected. These increases will be anywhere from 1.9% to a hefty 3.9% increase, depending on the campus.
Opposers to UMass official’s decision to increase tuition next year pointed to the state’s budget proposal that was also unveiled earlier this week. Within the Top House Democrats’ proposal, Massachusetts would boost state funding for the UMass system to $653 million. That dollar amount is significantly more than the $580 million that was originally proposed at the beginning of the year. But when Committee Chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz was asked if the hefty funding would be enough to avoid a tuition increase, the official failed to answer.
Whether or not UMass will feel any ease of financial significance next year after implementing the tuition hike is yet to be seen. But either way, it’s alarming to see so many colleges and universities increase prices amid an era where higher ed’s ultimate purpose is being scrutinized so heavily. Alas, the university is not alone, as many colleges across the nation are following suit.