Seniors To Lose Fee Waiver

Gintautas Dumcius

UMass Boston seniors are currently in danger of losing their fee waivers, thanks to the recommendation of a university report designed to help save costs on campus.

UMass Boston students over sixty will lose their fee waiver, in effect endangering certain programs. Many of them volunteer in senior centers, working in nursing homes and elder services.

Nina Silverstein, an associate professor in the Department of Gerontology, said she was terribly disappointed about losing students over sixty. It would be a blow to Gerontology and the Frank J. Manning Certificate Program, created in 1980 to “prepare professionals to respond to the needs of the growing numbers of older people in our society,” according to an application. The class is integrated with undergraduate classes and a part of the College of Community and Public Service (CPCS).

In a letter to a UMass Boston administration official, Silverstein wrote, “The impact will be fewer students in class that will be held anyway.” The true impact of the CURE report is the loss of their professional staff person, who was with the university for twenty years and was responsible for program administration, she said in the letter.

“I felt that asking for 50 limited fee waivers for the Manning program only (and not the full campus-wide 60 as maintained at Amherst and Dartmouth) was a reasonable request to sustain a 24-year old program that has demonstrated its commitment in terms of volunteers, advocacy, and employment in the aging programs and services of the Commonwealth,” she wrote.

Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance David MacKenzie, who chaired the cost-cutting Committee on University Revenues and Expenditures (CURE), explained how it had occurred, saying that it had looked to increase revenue, and not just make cuts, so a subcommittee looked at all the fee waivers.

“And most of the fee waivers are related to either need or academics or something like that. The senior one is the only sort of categorical one just because you’re in a certain category, i.e. you’re over a certain age, you get your fees waived,” he said. “And that didn’t seem to be a fair way to go,” especially with all the fees going up. The decision was made to put seniors in the same category as everybody else, which, as MacKenzie said, was “if you have a financial need, apply for financial aid and get it like everybody else.”

Admitting that it was “a very difficult thing and bad politically,” MacKenzie said, “I wish we didn’t have to do things like that, but we had about a $14 million dollar budget cut this year from the state, and one way to increase revenue is to eliminate fee waivers, and this was the only one we felt we could do.”

One other option was eliminating fee waivers for university employees, but given collective bargaining problems and host of other issues, the committee decided against it.

MacKenzie also pointed out that they retain their tuition waiver, which he estimated was a third of the cost.

The Gerontology was in a difficult position because its members were not eligible for financial aid since the program had not been certified. They did manage to get it certified by working with the Department of Education.

Now the biggest problem for the program is that it takes two semesters. Some are wondering if they could be grandfathered in, a notion MacKenzie shot down, pointing out that the implementation had already been delayed six months to certify the program.