Thursday, 4:30 PM
Lawmakers look at limiting tuition hikes
By James Vaznis, GLOBE STAFF
The Massachusetts House and Senate are considering bills that would cap tuition and fee increases at the stateís public colleges, where student charges have nearly doubled since the start of this decade.
A Senate proposal would limit the increases to the three-year average of the Consumer Price Index, which was about 3.2 percent last year.
A House proposal would go further: It calls for freezing tuition and fees in years when the state meets its funding obligation for public higher education. However, if funding falls short, the colleges could increase tuition and fees up to the average increase of the Higher Education Price Index, which is 5 percent this year. That index gauges the annual cost of running a college.
The bills come in response to growing recognition among state leaders that public higher education is becoming too pricey, preventing some residents from earning a degree and leaving thousands of highly skilled jobs unfilled.
At the University of Massachusetts, tuition and fees have risen 92 percent since the 2001-02 school year to an average of $9,000 this year; at the nine state colleges, they have climbed 98 percent to an average of $5,855 this year; and at the 15 community colleges, they are up 55 percent to an average of $3,526 this year, according to the state Board of Higher Education.
"Our student charges are off the chart because the Commonwealth hasnít stepped up to the plate to provide what it should be for funding," said Senator Stanley Rosenberg, a Northampton Democrat pushing for more state financing of public higher education.
The tuition and fee caps are part of larger bills in the House and Senate that would provide an additional $400 million over the next seven years for public higher education. The money, while keeping tuition increases down, would also go toward other areas, including endowment funds, workforce development, and new faculty positions.
A hearing was held on the bills Tuesday before the Joint Committee on Higher Education, which will attempt to forge a compromise.