Meehan talks tuition freeze with Spilka
'We'll work it out,' says UMass president
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
AFTER ACCUSING SENATE leaders of blindsiding university officials with a budget proposal to freeze tuition and fees next year, UMass President Marty Meehan met with Senate President Karen Spilka in her office Tuesday to discuss how the two sides can move forward.
Meehan and Spilka met in the afternoon in her third floor office suite days ahead of the start of the Senate’s multi-day debate over the fiscal 2020 budget. That debate formally begins next Tuesday.
Last week, Meehan said the Senate’s budget proposal was “unprecedented” in requiring campuses to freeze tuition rates and student fees without providing what the university considers to be sufficient funding to cover fixed costs.
Meehan would not say whether he felt he had convinced Spilka of the university’s predicament or if he thought the tuition language or appropriation for UMass would change next week when the Senate debates the budget.
“We’re going to have to see how the process works out, and there’s a long way to go in the process. We’ll work it out,” Meehan said. “We’re happy with the governor’s budget that provided us full collective bargaining as well as a 1 percent increase. The House did the same thing, and we’re hopeful that in this process we’ll be in a position to provide a world class education to our students and do it at an affordable price.”
The budget put together by Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues funded the University of Massachusetts at the same level — $558 million — recommended by both Gov. Charlie Baker and the House.
Rodrigues’s budget, however, went further by including language ordering a freeze of tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year. Meehan had previously said that unless the university received an additional $10.2 million in state support it would need to increase tuition by 2.5 percent.
Meehan said his focus in the meeting with Spilka was not on securing the additional money, but on the provisions restricting individual campuses’ ability to develop their own spending and revenue plans.
“Our major concern is with language, not the money,” Meehan said.
Following the release of the Senate Ways and Means budget last week, Meehan wrote a letter to Spilka warning that without additional funding or the ability to raise tuition the campuses would have to cut more than $22 million in spending on faculty and programming.
Spilka echoed Meehan in a statement to the News Service. “We had a very productive discussion,” she said.