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UMass tuition steady; far more costly fees may rise

State aid cut portends steep boost in bills

By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / February 7, 2009
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Massachusetts education officials will hold in-state tuition rates steady at public colleges and universities for the next school year, although individual schools are likely to raise student fees sharply to offset reduced state aid.

The Board of Higher Education voted Thursday to leave annual tuition unchanged. At seven state colleges, tuition for Massachusetts residents will stay at either $910 or $970 and will remain between $720 and $780 at the 15 community colleges.

Tuition will be $1,714 at the UMass campuses in Amherst and Boston and $1,454 at UMass-Lowell and Dartmouth.

However, state-mandated tuition rates represent a small fraction of the overall cost of attending college, so students should still expect steeper overall bills, state education officials have said. For example, students at Worcester State College pay $970 in annual tuition, but $4,894 in fees. While tuition payments flow to the state, fees support the campuses' budgets.

Trustees at the University of Massachusetts are expected to vote on next year's fees next week.

Richard Freeland, the commissioner of higher education, said yesterday that it was important to "hold the line on tuition" in trying economic times. The $96 million the state is currently spending on financial aid is also slated to remain constant despite falling state revenues, he added.

The full cost of attending UMass-Amherst this school year for full-time, in-state students - including tuition, fees, and room and board - was $18,346.

The tuition decision was made a week after public colleges and universities learned they would lose more than $100 million in state subsidies next year under Governor Deval Patrick's proposed budget.

Patrick's proposal reduces aid to community colleges, state colleges, and the University of Massachusetts by 11.6 percent and raises the prospect of sharp fee increases.

Under Patrick's budget, the five-campus University of Massachusetts system would receive $416 million next fiscal year, down from $470 million. The nine state colleges would receive $185 million, a $25 million drop, and the 15 community colleges would receive $204 million, a $27 million decline.

On Thursday, the board also called on state universities and colleges to urge all their applicants to complete the federal financial aid form, making more eligible for government grants and loans. Studies have shown that many students who probably meet income requirements for assistance do not apply.

A state study has shown that an additional 16,000 students would qualify for $59 million in public support if they completed the form.

The move makes Massachusetts the first state in the country to adopt a system-wide recommendation of this kind, the board said.

"These challenging economic times underscore the need for students to seek every possible form of financial assistance," Freeland said.

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