UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Romney, Hands Off UMass

Governor Romney’s proposed budget cuts last week signaled the escalation of the offensive on our social benefits. Towns and cities are warning that the details in his budget show a larger cut than Romney promised, and the details of his plans to restructure higher education show a larger problem than Romney lets on.

His reluctance to raise taxes, in the end, will not reduce Massachusetts’ residents spending but only force residents to pay directly–and with reduced spending power compared to that of the state as a mass consumer.

Romney should keep his hands off UMass. His plan to have UMass Amherst and the medical school branch off on their own in order to raise their tuition to “market rates” will leave us students in the lurch–forcing us to take out larger loans to pay for college, or making attendance to one of these schools impossible for us all together.

Despite Romney’s promise that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will not be privatized, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey told reporters privatization is inevitable.

Privatization of basic services for students has been ongoing. Any time the administration states that a university department or service must become “self-supporting”–like Chancellor Gora said of the Early Learning Center last spring–the specter of privatization is raised. But Romney’s plan for the first time raises the prospect of wholesale privatization of a public university in Massachusetts.

This is the question we need to ask ourselves: does privatization lead to better services and opportunities for Massachusetts residents in our education system? Well, does the private company Sodexho–which has a monopoly on hot food at UMass–offer students good food?

Though Romney considers the higher education plan his “opportunity to be bold,” national college-reform analysts say the plan is more radical than bold and far more of an overhaul any state has seen in 30 years. The analysts also point out that college restructuring rarely saves money in a single budget year and usually creates new long-term costs.

Education experts across the state are citing Romney’s higher education plan as evidence that the new governor is clueless when it comes to running our university system. The Mass Media feels, however, that the republican governor knows exactly what he’s doing; he’s trying to get to Washington by railroading the conservative agenda.

The state budget crisis is being balanced on the backs of ordinary hard-working residents, but it does not have to be this way. Even though Wall Street cries about losses, many Massachusetts companies are thriving. Raytheon could afford to have some more of its $750 million in last year’s profits taxed; Fleet’s 2002 $1.5 billion in profits–putting in perspective their $1 million donation to UMass Amherst, which led to the corporation receiving an official board seat at the school–should be re-invested in Massachusetts residents in the form of much-needed taxes.

There are many other Massachusetts companies that can afford to have their taxes raised; threats that these companies will pack up and move out of state due to an increase in their taxes ignore the fact that these companies depend heavily on the federally funded education and research powerhouses in this region.

At a broader level, more than two-thirds of all states’ budgets are in the red for this fiscal year. Instead of providing more tax breaks for big corporations, the federal government should be organizing a multi-billion dollar bailout for state governments to preserve important public services such as higher education.

The crisis of 9/11 moved Congress to approve a $15 billion bailout of the airline industry, even though the sum was much more than the industry lost in the three days that the nation’s airports were shut down. This crisis raises a fundamental question about the federal government’s priorities–welfare and tax-breaks for corporate America are not more important than providing good schools for ordinary people in the U.S.