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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Patrick Quells Student Woes

With funding from the federal stimulus package, UMass may choose to rebate the $1500 fee hike that is set to take effect in the Fall 2009 semester.

In a recent press conference held at UMass Boston, Governor Deval Patrick announced a proposal to restore funding to public colleges as part of his Massachusetts Recovery Plan.

“High education is not immune to the budget crisis as you all know. Unfortunately we can’t avoid every difficult decision in higher education even with the help of the federal recovery funds, but thanks to those funds we can soften the blow,” Patrick said.

If the legislature approves it, Patrick’s proposal allocates $162 million to the 29 state and community colleges–with $81.6 million spread across the five UMass campuses.

“Let me tell you what that means–for students, that means no $1500 fee,” Patrick announced. “For faculty and staff, that means fewer layoffs, that means fewer reductions in programs, that means holding it together until we get through better times.”

Under Patrick’s proposal, the Federal Pell Grant Program would also boost its maximum support from $4700 to $5350 and allow 85,000 additional students to be eligible. The Pell Grant provides need-based grants to low-income University students.

Furthermore, $9 million dollars would be allocated for work-study programs across all 29 campuses, effectively increasing from the available pool to $45 million.

While students celebrated news of Patrick’s proposal, some feel that the proposal is only a temporary reprieve and the original decision by the Board of Trustees to increase fees was premature and argue that a rebate is not the same as a rollback.

“I think [the motion to increase fees] was a rushed decision. It placed us in a bad situation and I think they need to take more time to see what happens in the economy, to see if we are able to move out of this recession, and if this fee increase is really necessary,” said UMass Boston Student Senate President Terral Ainooson.

While UMass students may not have to pay the additional $1500 fees, UMass will employ the standard procedure of adjusting the annual increase to cover the cost of inflation. According to UMass President Jack Wilson, the increase is projected to be $400.

If a second wave of stimulus money is not sufficient, the $1500 fee increase may be effective for Fall 2010. When asked about the following year, Wilson responded that he was optimistic.

“We’re taking this one year at a time like everyone else in this recession. Near year is next year. This is a two year stimulus bill and we have high hopes for next year. And we have high hopes that over that time, the revenue of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will recover.”