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BOSTON--The Board of Regents of Higher Education, facing state budget cuts for public colleges and universities, approved a tuition increase Tuesday over the protest of student leaders.
"No one here wants to raise tuition, give me a break," Board Chair Paul Tsongas said, before the regents approved the measure, 11-2.
Tsongas said the board was forced to take the action because lawmakers have "decapitated" the budget for higher education.
"I'm not the one, the regents aren't the one, who knocked Humpty Dumpty off the wall," he said.
The tuition increases will range from 15 percent at community colleges to 28 percent at the University of Massachusetts and 33 percent at the University of Lowell for the 1990-91 school year.
Randolph Bromery, interim chancellor of higher education, said the tuition increases were necessary because state budget cuts are threatening the quality of college programs.
"It takes a long time to build up academic programs," he said. "It only takes a couple of years to degrade quality."
Bromery also said part of the plan includes a commitment by college presidents to hold the line on special administrative fees that have been assessed to cope with budget shortfalls. The fees range up to $974 at UMass-Amherst.
But some student leaders said there is no guarantee that fees will remain stable, since those charges do not fall within the authority of the regents.
"I'm here to tell you that our back is bent under the weight of increasing tuition, fees and housing costs, and the final straw that breaks the camel's back is fast approaching," said Geoff Richelew, a member of the Student Government Association at Framing-ham State College.
Students said the tuition increase would run counter to the mission of making public higher education accessible to people without high incomes.
Terri Saucier, a junior at Southeastern Massachusetts University and president of the State Student Association of Massachusetts, said students recognize the fiscal crisis that has led to budget cuts.
"We do not only recognize it, we fear it," she said. "We fear it because the burden is falling on our shoulders."
But Tom Winston, a junior at the University of Lowell, defended the tuition hike.
"Access to nothing in quality isn't access at all," he said.
"We are not eager to pay an increase," Winston said. "We see no other alternative."
Tsongas urged students to take their concerns to legislators and the candidates for governor in order to improve funding for higher education.
"This is not the last battle," he said. "My prediction is we're going to be here a year from now going through the exact same dilemma."
Under the plan, tuition at the University of Massachusetts campuses in Boston and Amherst would each rise $423 to $1,935 for in-state undergraduates.
Other tuition hikes would be: University of Lowell, $415, to $1675; Southeastern Massachusetts University, $340, to $1600; Community colleges, $122, to $950; state colleges, $158, to $1250; Massachusetts College of Art and Massachusetts Maritime Academy, both $167 to $1295.
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