By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
Education officials will hold in-state tuition rates steady at Massachusetts public colleges and universities for the next school year, although individual schools this spring are likely to raise student fees sharply to offset reduced state aid.
The Board of Higher Education voted Thursday to leave 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. 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.
Richard Freeland, the commissioner of higher education, said it was important to "hold the line on tuition" in trying economic times. The $96 million that the state is currently spending on financial aid is also slated to remain constant despite falling state revenues, he added.
The current cost of attending UMass Dartmouth is now $8,858 a year, and $10,232 at Amherst.
Trustees at the University of Massachusetts are expected to vote on next year's fees next week.
The news comes 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 upon state universities and colleges to urge all its applicants to complete the federal financial aid form, making more eligible for government grants and loans. Studies have shown that many students who likely 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.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more