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Mass. public college system enters limelight as private tuitions soar

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Once the neglected stepchild of higher education in Massachusetts, the state’s public universities and community colleges are making a comeback with increased funding, state-of-the art facilities, honors programs, affordable prices and higher graduation rates.

With the rising cost of a private school education, combined with the public system’s big push to improve its standing, students are flocking to campuses all over the state. Interest and enrollment is up not only at the system’s flagship, UMass Amherst, but at institutions like UMass Lowell, Bridgewater State University and community colleges.

“We have been working very hard for the last five years to increase public understanding and recognition of the quality of what’s going in public higher education and increasing support for it,’’ said Richard Freeland, the commissioner of higher education in Massachusetts.

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