UMass funding fight intensifies – Sentinel & Enterprise

By Katie Lannan

State House News Service

BOSTON — After writing to Senate President Karen Spilka to warn of potential adverse impacts on their campuses if a Senate Ways and Means Committee proposal becomes law, University of Massachusetts chancellors are taking that message to their students.

The chancellors and UMass President Marty Meehan on Tuesday blasted the Senate budget blueprint that funds the five-campus system at $558 million, includes language precluding tuition or fee hikes next year, and requires UMass Boston to fund its centers and institutes at at least the same level as this year.

The funding recommended in the budget draft is about $10 million shy of what university leaders say is necessary to hold tuition level for in-state undergraduates next year.

UMass said the tuition freeze, restrictions on other fees and language about the UMass Boston centers and institutes would force $22.2 million in cuts across the four undergraduate campuses.

UMass Boston Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy emailed his campus community on Wednesday, warning of an $8.2 million shortfall and “deep cuts, including personnel reductions, to financial aid, student services, faculty hiring, research and extension support, IT support, deferred maintenance, and administrative overhead” if Senate leadership’s approach makes it into the final budget.

At UMass Boston, interim Chancellor Katherine Newman said the move would cut $7.

13 million from the campus budget and possibly lead to “undesirable outcomes,” including the layoff of roughly 100 administrative staff members, a 100-person reduction in the teaching faculty, or a reduction in the amount of money committed to financial aid.

“We serve the largest proportion of first-generation students from families of modest means,” Newman wrote in an email Thursday to the campus community. “Our ability to do right by them, by providing a strong faculty, accessible advising, classes they need to graduate, and financial aid to support their efforts will be dramatically reduced if this budget is passed. The impact will be serious, real, and lasting.”

Subbaswamy wrote, “The budget put forth by the Senate would have a negative effect on the very academic and institutional qualities needed to ensure student access and success at UMass and would severely hinder our ability to produce the talented graduates who go on to fuel the Commonwealth’s innovation economy.”

The House in its budget also funded UMass at $558 million. Senate leaders have characterized the amount as a 7 percent increase over this year, but UMass officials say it represents full funding of the state’s share of collective bargaining costs, plus a 1 percent increase.

On Wednesday, Spilka said she planned to meet with Meehan to discuss his concerns. She said the committee gave UMass a “hefty increase” that not many other state agencies were on track receive.

“We funded it the same as the governor and the House, and I thought they seemed satisfied with that,” she told reporters.

Asked about the Senate Ways and Means budget, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he has said in the past that UMass needs to “take a look, sharpen their pencils a bit, in terms of their budgetary matters.” He said he planned to discuss the matter with Higher Education Committee Co-Chair Rep. Jeffrey Roy.

“What we did in the budget was to treat UMass fairly in terms of, again, increasing the amount that we had given last year,” DeLeo said Wednesday.

The House budget also includes language calling for the preservation of fiscal 2019 funding levels at UMass Boston centers and institutes. That provision was offered as an amendment by Rep. Tackey Chan of Quincy, who also filed an unsuccesful amendment that would have required UMass Boston to cut by 10 percent the salaries and benefits for all provosts, associate provosts, deans and the chancellor.

Senators have until noon Friday to file amendments to their budget, which is slated for debate beginning May 21.


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