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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Fee Increases For the Holidays – Editorial – 12/11/03

For those of you who have not received your letter from Chancellor Gora yet, let us be the first to inform you that next semester you’ll be forking over another $750 in fees. Yes, that is on top of the $500 fee increase you paid this fall. Oh, and the cost to park in the garage will be bumped up to $6 a day to boot.

The Boston Globe informed us recently that the state of Massachusetts has done a lot of thinking on what is most important for its citizens. The result; the state deems it more important to imprison us than to educate us. State spending on prisons has eclipsed spending on public schools’ campuses and financial aid $830 million to $816 million respectively.

This fall about 12,400 students enrolled at UMB. Typically 300 to 400 fewer students enroll in the spring semester. Of course with the new fee that total enrollment will likely be much lower than what is typical. Let’s pretend it won’t be any lower just so we can get some optimistic numbers on how much money the fee will raise: about $9 million-less than the difference in spending between prisons and education here in the state.

The Boston Globe also wrote that at its peak, back in 1988, state spending on education was 6.5% of the budget. It is now down to 3.5%, taking a cut of 27% over the last three years alone. This means we the students will make up the difference while accepting a reduction in education services.

Ask anyone and, with good reason, they will probably point to the economy as the culprit. The economy is in awful shape and we all know it, but it is supposedly getting better. In the meantime, public school students will be carrying more and more of the financial burden in their backpacks. The burden increases exponentially when you consider that with each rise in tuition or fees and each decrease in state financial aid fewer and fewer students will be able to go to school.

Some say the sharp new campus center is cutting into our budget and ask if it is worth the price. At a cost of $75 million dollars, it is an easy target for those who are looking for fiscal waste. How many students would still be able to attend school next semester if we had $75 million dollars instead of a shiny new building? The truth is, the campus center was financed independently from the academic budget and is not the source of our budgetary woes, but the loss of more students to increasing fees in the face of the pricey center does make it feel like a guilty pleasure. Perhaps ex-President Bulger and the Board of Trustees would care to ask the students who cannot be here next semester if they are looking forward to the opening of the campus center.

Part of the problem is that public higher education in Massachusetts has always played second fiddle to Harvard, MIT, et al. If the city’s only four-year college is under funded and consequently underachieving, not too many people will be complaining to Beacon Hill, where the only people who can solve this fiscal problem sit facing Cambridge.

The majority of state legislators are democrats. They rule Beacon Hill and can override the governor. If the state legislators really wanted to provide quality education to the less-than-privileged citizens of Massachusetts they could stop these budget cuts, financial aid cuts and fee increases. Interim UMass President Jack Wilson has made it perfectly clear, “An investment in the University of Massachusetts truly represents an investment in the Commonwealth’s future.”

In the meantime, get a second or third job this winter break, or emigrate to a country that cares about education; pick a direction and start walking.