On March 7, Marty Meehan, the President of the University of Massachusetts system, gave his inaugural, formal “State of the University” address. The event was held at the UMass Club in downtown Boston and was hosted by the UMass Foundation.
Around 300 guests attended, among which were several high-profile guests, such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, members from the UMass Board of Trustees, as well as staff, students, and faculty from all five UMass system campuses.
In his speech, Meehan addressed the university’s latest achievements and emphasized its growing importance to the state of Massachusetts and its residents. The President, who attended UMass Lowell for his undergraduate studies in Political Science and Education, pointed out during his speech that the majority of UMass students are Massachusetts residents and most of them continue to live and work in the state after graduation.
“We are Massachusetts. We are the workforce. We are the lifeblood of the economy, and we are the engine that drive daily life," said Meehan.
While he also expressed his appreciation for the work and education that private institutions, especially the higher-ranked universities, provide here, Meehan also emphasized that their mission and motivation are very different from those of UMass.
“The facts are undeniable: We are serving Massachusetts in a way that our private competitors no longer do.” While the enrollment of Massachusetts residents in the top eight private schools has declined by 72 percent since 1986, universities in the UMass system educate around three time as many students directly from Massachusetts than these top eight schools combined. “There is no doubt that UMass is the top producer of our state’s greatest resource—a highly educated workforce.”
The Lowell-native also added that a key factor to being able to provide an education for Massachusetts residents, as well as out-of-state students, is affordability for all students.
Meehan acknowledged that the university has achieved great accomplishments over the years, but UMass will also have to continue to face difficulties, specifically related to the financial environment. He said that the university’s leadership will struggle to hold tuition against inflation.
However, on a bright side, the President also said that UMass will also continue to support scholarships and programs that offer education at reduced or no cost. This year alone, UMass will provide a new record sum of $275 million in university funds to scholarships for students. Furthermore, there are also several outside scholarships, such as the Commonwealth Commitment program, that support students financially. Additionally, UMass will continue to support three-year degree programs where students spent less money for their diplomas. Furthermore, Meehan said that it also remains critical to continue fundraising “at contribution levels small or large.”
Furthermore, as students debt has become a reality in modern day America, the UMass leadership has also developed models “to improve financial literacy,” so that “students assuming debt understand how it will impact their choices moving forward.”
In the end, Meehan emphasized that UMass will continue to follow its mission based on which it was founded over half a century ago.
“We are the University of Massachusetts. The University working for Massachusetts. Our mission is clear and our commitment is unwavering."