Meehan gives annual state of UMass address

  • UMass President Martin Meehan speaks at the 2017 commencement. Gazette file Photo

For the Recorder
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan is pledging to maintain the affordability of education for all students on UMass campuses through a five-point plan unveiled in his annual state of the university address.

Speaking at the UMass Club in Boston, Meehan cited successes in the UMass system, including the growing diversity of the student body, being ranked one of the top university systems in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and the $670 million in annual research and development, such as the partnership in Amherst in which the Chan Zuckerberg Institute is providing $5.5 million to use artificial intelligence and big data to promote breakthroughs in health research.

“But as we celebrate our successes, we also have to acknowledge the challenges we face, not just at UMass, but across public higher education,” Meehan said. “Because while rankings may boost our reputation, they can’t give a hand up to a student paying their way through college.”

Meehan outlined five areas that will be a focus to make sure students are able to afford their education in a time when the state is only covering 20 percent of the budget and per-student spending has dropped by 32 percent since 2001. These include:

Growing the university’s online programming

Expanding partnerships with nonprofit organizations

Increasing collaboration with the state’s business community

Raising $200 million over the next 10 years dedicated solely to financial aid

Committing university leadership to advocate against federal policies that threaten the university’s affordability mission, including portions of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.

Meehan also used his address to highlight “talented, hardworking and inspiring” students, including Heather MacLean of Danvers, a graduate student at UMass Amherst. As an undergraduate Maclean, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education, had to earn money to feed her younger siblings.

“These are the students we serve every day at UMass,” Meehan said

Meehan called on those in attendance to share ideas to address college affordability with university leadership.

“We share a belief that an individual should be able to rise as high as their ambitions will take them, a belief that where you come from should not dictate where you go, and a belief that we have a responsibility to create pathways of opportunity for students from all backgrounds,” Meehan said.