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June 10, 2015

UMass panel OKs hikes in student fees

A panel of University of Massachusetts trustees on Wednesday signed off on hiking student costs for the 2015-2016 school year, saying the exact increase will depend on how much the university system will receive in state aid.

The UMass Board's Committee on Administration and Finance unanimously voted to approve hikes of up to 5 percent for in-state undergraduates after two consecutive years of freezing tuition and fee increases. The full board meets June 17 in Amherst to consider the increases.

If UMass officials go forward with the full 5 percent hike, students will be hit with increases ranging from $552 to $580, though the figure will depend on which campus they attend. Twenty percent of the fee increase will be focused on providing financial aid to students.

The administration and finance committee also approved a $250 "technology fee" for infrastructure needs on the campuses.

Outgoing UMass President Robert Caret acknowledged that UMass has become "more expensive," but he added that chancellors have been trying to keep costs down.

UMass officials have asked for $578 million in state aid in fiscal year 2016, saying that includes collective bargaining costs and the funds necessary to hit a 50-50 split between costs covered equally by the state and students.

The House has proposed $519 million for UMass in its version of the budget; the Senate is offering $538 million. A team of budget negotiators is attempting to hash out a compromise. Gov. Charlie Baker's version of the budget included $526 million for UMass.

Caret said the system needs "the flexibility to pay the bills," adding that what the House and Senate have provided is "nowhere near close" to what UMass needs to hit the 50-50 mark.

The 2016 fiscal year begins July 1.

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