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UMass fees

Massachusetts, we have a problem.

In a recently published news story, the chancellor for the University of Massachusetts, Kumble Subbaswamy, said that fees at the school would be going up unless the state chips in more money. While Subbaswamy didn’t specify just how much fees might be expected to climb, he did say that without the additional revenue, “Our ability to maintain quality education will be negatively affected.”

But what Subbaswamy didn’t address directly would be the added financial burden to students and their families.

For a long time, UMass and the Legislature have played a shell game when it comes to the cost of education. While the costs labeled “tuition” are low, the university makes up for this with fees. Thus, the overall cost for undergraduates to attend the school in Amherst has a price tag of more than $13,000 for the academic year. Add room and board and the bill’s over $23,000.

That’s $100,000 or so for four years — a lot of money for the average family.

Taking a nickle-and-dime approach aimed at the students is not the way to bring in revenue and does little to enhance the reputation of the state’s flagship public university. Instead, it’s just another off-putting move by a university busy trying to “improve” its football program by playing home games at the other end of the state.

But the blame here doesn’t rest just with school officials. The state has a heavy hand in failing to properly fund the university, a trend that’s continued for decades. UMass has seen the state’s contribution per student continue to be ranked closer to the bottom than the top of states in the country.

Yet, state officials and lawmakers continue to publicly profess their belief in public education and the importance of having UMass-Amherst take a back seat to no one.

It’s time to ante up.

UMass President Robert L. Caret has been calling for a 50-50 split when it comes to state money for the university. That’s a great starting point.

After that, the Legislature and university should have honest talks about the financing that’s required so that students and their families are the last option when it comes to raising costs.

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