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Petitioning Nolan O'Brien and 13 others

Board of Trustees: Oppose the UMass Amherst Proposed IT Infrastructure Fee!

Dear UMass Board Of Trustees,

We are writing to express student opposition to the proposed $250 dollar IT infrastructure fee that Vice Chancellor Julie Buehler proposed at the March 23 University of Massachusetts Amherst Student Government Association senate meeting.

The 32 percent increase in the cost of attending UMass Amherst for in-state students over the past 10 years—it’s 38 percent for out-of-staters—represents an immense burden on those who send Massachusetts’ next generation of leaders and innovators to UMass. 


One year of attendance at UMass costs 20 percent of the average Massachusetts family’s annual income. The University of Massachusetts system fails to achieve its mission of providing quality, affordable and accessible education for young people—the Commonwealth’s future. Yet another new fee, this time for Internet, is just one example of the larger trend of reduced access and affordability of UMass to Bay Staters.


The mission statement you approved for UMass Amherst in 2005 is: “[to] provide an affordable and accessible education of high quality and to conduct programs of research and public service that advance knowledge and improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.”
Potential students choose not to attend UMass far too frequently because ever-increasing costs of attendance will overburden their already-strained financial resources. Who would want to face not being able to buy enough food or purchase textbooks just to pay tuition and fees? Yet another fee compounds the hypocrisy of high costs and the affordability promise of the University’s mission statement.


Around the country, we see growing recognition that higher education should be a right, not a privilege. This call is most prevalent at universities that represent a public trust, like UMass Amherst. By adding even more fees that students have to pay in order to fully participate in the university’s opportunities, UMass abandons its promises to the Commonwealth. Instead of putting the costs on the backs of students, UMass should fight to return to a reasonable level of public funding.


As UMass Amherst becomes a top-tier leader in public higher education, increasing the capabilities of our structural capacities is an investment for the future. High-quality, secure Internet service is a required part of student learning in the 21st century. But our Board of Trustees needs to ask: How can we improve our Internet infrastructure without sacrificing the economic security of the students who must use it?


A strong technology infrastructure is a necessity for accessible, high-quality education, but an investment in students cannot simultaneously disadvantage them.


On-campus students already pay a high, residents-only fee to UMass Amherst IT for a less-than-stellar technology infrastructure. Off-campus students pay for private Internet in their homes in addition to University fees. Even more exorbitant student fees will only drag down retention rates and force prospective students to choose more affordable state or private schools, diminishing the flagship status of the Amherst campus.


In the face of the worst student debt crisis in U.S. history, cuts to state funding for public higher education, and reduced access to financial aid, students cannot afford yet another fee.


Our community must not force another student to choose between food or fees. So we are calling on you, the Committee on Administration and Finance, to not pass yet another UMass Amherst IT fee to the Committee of the Whole at your June 17 meeting.


UMass Amherst prides itself on being innovative, so why follow the well-travelled path of passing on deferred maintenance and other cost increases to the students instead of advocating for UMass in the state legislature?


The UMass system adds more than $6 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy, and UMass Amherst alone adds nearly $2 billion. Why aren’t we making it clear that such a powerful growth engine deserves a strong investment from the Commonwealth in return?


We must be innovative and forward-thinking to preserve access and affordability at UMass. The overused option of charging students for new or deferred costs is not an innovative solution.


Students need your support to ensure that UMass continues to “advance knowledge and improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth.”


The buck stops with you, not us.


Sincerely,

UMass Amherst’s Student Administration Accountability Coalition
For questions, concerns or to seek a meeting time with the Student Administration Accountability Coalition please email UMassAmherstSAAC@gmail.com.



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