Now that those with incomes over $1 million will pay an extra 4% in taxes, the state’s public college system president is hoping that money is actually spent as intended.
“I think the voters clearly indicated that they want a significant increase in the amount of money going to public higher education in this commonwealth,” former U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts, said in an interview aired Sunday.
Meehan was appearing on Jon Keller’s weekly politics segment during WBZ’s early morning news broadcast, when he said the new law is specifically tailored to help deal with the ongoing funding issues facing all institutions of higher learning in a post pandemic era. However, Meehan said, he’s nevertheless concerned that other pressing needs in the state will get first priority
Earlier this month voters passed the Fair Share Amendment, which will implement an income surtax on any dollar earned past the first million. The money, according to the wording of the constitutional amendment, must be spent on transportation and education.
Opponents of the measure maintained for months that though it may raise money for schools and roads, that doesn’t mean the state’s Legislature won’t direct other education or transportation funding elsewhere. Meehan said he also has his concerns.
“Candidly, Jon, I’m worried about it,” he said. “It seems to me transportation, local aid, K-12 education, all of those things have been more of a priority in this commonwealth over the two or three decades than public higher education.”
The UMass system has an over $1.2 billion maintenance backlog, a fact Meehan acknowledged should be a priority.
“I’d like to see the state step up, like they do in many other states, and actually put some money into the deferred maintenance of our buildings, our laboratories, all of those things,” he said.
That isn’t the only place he would like to see the money go, Meehan said, considering the rising cost of a college education.
“I’d like to see some of it go direct to students in the form of financial aid,” he said. “The state hasn’t kept up, for example, with financial aid which can be done institutionally.”
The new funding comes as the state’s college system is reporting a dramatic drop in post high school enrollment.
“Comparing fall 2021 to fall 2019: 4,333 fewer high school graduates enrolled in college,” the state reported in August, a decline of undergraduate admission of about 10%.
At current the University of Massachusetts system of schools has just under 74,000 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, according to statistics provided by the University.