HCN News & Notes

UMass President Says University System Set to Drive Post-pandemic Renewal, Recovery

BOSTON — University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan said the university system is emerging from the pandemic period “with its academic, research, and financial strengths fully intact” and positioned to play a major role in driving economic renewal and recovery in the Commonwealth.

“Thanks to the leadership of the board of trustees and the sound management of our chancellors and finance teams, the University of Massachusetts is positioned to thrive — not just for the next fiscal year or decade, but for generations,” Meehan said.

Speaking at a quarterly meeting of the UMass board of trustees, during which the board approved the university’s operating budget for the coming year, Meehan said there are many signs UMass has weathered the COVID-19 storm and is moving forward in its mission of service to the Commonwealth.

For example, the five campuses of the UMass system recently awarded 19,000 degrees to students, the vast majority of whom will live and work in Massachusetts. Meehan projects that student enrollment will remain stable and that each of the UMass campuses will be open to students when the new academic year begins in the fall.

The university is also on course to end this fiscal year with a balanced budget and projects a 6% increase in its workforce, bringing staffing back to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile it will use $113 million in federal recovery funds to provide emergency grants to students in need while also freezing tuition for most students for a second consecutive year.

“As I said at our recent commencements, we can now feel the breeze of reawakening and recovery flowing throughout the university and in our daily lives,” Meehan said. “UMass answered the call throughout the dark days of the pandemic and will continue to be there for Massachusetts and for the world.”

Rob Manning, UMass board of trustees chairman, said the university established sound goals and benefited from strong management and leadership throughout the pandemic period.

“Over the past year and a half, our driving principles have been simple — preserve the strength of the university and do as much as we can for the students who have been hit hardest by this crisis,” Manning said. “By balancing the need to stabilize operating costs with the imperative to support our neediest students, we have held true to our mission throughout the most challenging of circumstances.”

Both Meehan and Manning also indicated that, while the university is currently on firm financial footing, the expiration of federal funding after this fiscal year, combined with ongoing disruption in the higher-education industry nationwide, will require continued vigilance and innovative management in the coming years.

UMass expects to receive $258.6 million in total federal stimulus funding. In addition to the $113.5 million that will support student emergency grants, the university will strategically invest $145 million of these one-time funds — available through the end of fiscal year 2022 — to create a financial bridge to future fiscal years with the goal of ensuring financial stability for the long term.

“We are grateful to the members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, to the leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, and to the president for stepping up to assist UMass and all of higher education,” Meehan said. “The federal funds are a critical bridge for this fiscal year and next, allowing us to make the necessary strategic decisions to keep UMass financially strong for the long term.”