UMass-state funding deal to freeze costs dies

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BOSTON – A deal that ensured state funding to cover half the cost of attending the University of Massachusetts provided the school froze tuition and fees is history, according to the Springfield Republican’s site.

“We’re certainly open to talking about some more stable and longer term approaches to funding UMass, but at this point we can’t commit to funding 50:50,” state Education Secretary Jim Peyser said in an interview published Monday. He was referring to an arrangement struck previously by former Gov. Deval Patrick and Robert Caret, then the head of the UMass system.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Marty Meehan, the system’s current president, have not sought to maintain the agreement, Ann Scales, a UMass spokeswoman, told MassLive.

“They never really got to 50:50 is the bottom line, and we just haven’t been able to continue that forward,” Peyser is quoted as saying. “The 50:50 deal … is no longer in effect.”

While the deal caused the university to freeze tuition and fees for the past two years, both charges rose for the current academic year. UMass requested about $570 million in fiscal 2017 state funding, according to the MassLive report, while Baker’s proposed budget would deliver about $508 million. MassLive noted that UMass would also have available about $31 million in retained tuition payments, which have gone to the state’s general fund in previous years.

“We gave them what we thought we could afford,” Peyser said in the report. “It was consistent with what we gave to other public higher education institutions.”