Student Committee Seek Higher Education and Lower Tuition

Taylor Fife

As tuition rates continue to rise all across the country, and especially on our campus, students are beginning to do something about it. In order to combat state budget cuts to the University of Massachusetts, the Student Senate has organized a Committee on Higher Education. The Committee on Higher Education is a group whose purpose is to increase funding for UMass and give students a voice in local, state and federal higher education politics. Collaboration with other University of Massachusetts schools is vital to their success.

The Committee on Higher Education is currently organizing a lobbying effort at the state house currently planned for April 18th. The Committee will be trying to get all the students it can out to help in this effort. In order to be effective there needs to be a noticeable amount of students that can demonstrate the importance of this issue.

The Committee is focusing its goals around three central themes: affordability, access and accountability. The committee will be pushing the state to keep tuition rates low, allowing opportunities for all to attend UMass, and requiring the university to be accountable to students and to the taxpayers that fund it.

Keeping tuition low is not the only aim of lobbying efforts. In order to enhance the democratic traditions of the University, the Committee has decided to endorse lobbying for a sustainability report to be created for the University of Massachusetts system.

John Pearson said of the sustainability report, “This report will detail the Social, Environmental and Economic impacts of the Universitywith input from the various stakeholders: labor unions, students, faculty, staff, community members, administrators and the State. On the environment side, it will detail our greenhouse gas emissions and set goals for cutting these emission. It would also detail the current state of affairs with Labor contracts and where the University is getting its funding.”

Over 600 multinational corporations and two universities have released similar sustainability reports. By having this report the Committee hopes that the University will become more accountable and more inclined to change. “This is just the beginning you see, there is a saying in the corporate world ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’This is what we are seeking to do: measure the university as a whole,” said Pearson.

Currently the University of Massachusetts is one of the most expensive public Universities in the country. Compared to other states, Massachusetts gives very little funding to education. The Committee on Higher Education hopes to begin to change this pattern.

An important aspect of the new Committee is its emphasis on working with other schools from the UMass system. The lobbying day scheduled for the 18th is being planned in conjunction with UMass Amherst. The Committee hopes that over time the entire UMass system will be able to work cohesively to enact lasting change on the state level.

Eliza Wilson feels that this cooperation between schools is an important part of what the Committee on Higher Education is doing. “I think that this higher ed committee is a wonderful thing because it’s been able to unite students across the entire UMass System and allow them to come together and show our commitment to higher education and make sure there is a future for higher education in this state,” she commented.

This committee seems to have a lot of potential for success. The lobbying could likely result in lower costs of education, a platform for future successes, and allow students and taxpayers to have more of a say as to where their money goes. The success of these endeavors, however, lay heavily in how many people come out in support of the University on April 18th.

Committee on Higher Education Chair Jason Pramas invites all undergraduate and graduate students to join up, and “help students build a strong political infrastructure that will enable us to have a real say in policies that affect our daily lives.” Pramas can be reached at [email protected].