Mar 4, 2019—The third-annual State of the University Address was held at the UMass Club in Boston. President of the University of Massachusetts system, Martin “Marty” Meehan, gave his speech detailing what the plan is for UMass’s future.

At the beginning of the speech, Meehan went into what UMass has been built up to. “But over the last 30 years, thanks to the hard work of many people in this room and your predecessors, we have indeed become the world-class university the commission envisioned. By every measure, from student demand, to research impact, to third-party validations, we have reached the upper echelon of public universities in the United States and around the globe. Today, UMass educates 75,000 students, including three times as many Massachusetts residents as the top eight private colleges and universities in the state combined.” His main point though was that UMass should be putting out far more online courses in order to keep up with other universities across the country. He said that they expect a decrease in college applicants in the near future as a result of the 2008 recession. “The plunging birth rates during the great recession have caused the number of children reaching college age to begin declining, and, starting in 2026, that decline will be dramatic.”

Laying out the plan for the audience, Meehan stated, “A concerted and highly targeted effort to make a UMass education available to these adult learners is the answer to a number of issues: addressing the workforce skills gap, meeting employer demand, improving economic mobility for Massachusetts residents, and ensuring that UMass continues to thrive for generations to come. Over the next several months, I will be meeting with senior leadership and faculty on each of our campuses to outline a plan for the creation of a new online college focused solely on adult learners.” Though colleges like Southern New Hampshire University are at the forefront of online higher education—solely online colleges, for example, Purdue Global and Penn State World Campus are reaching far into the pool of adults seeking out degrees. “Southern New Hampshire University enrolls an estimated 15,000 Massachusetts residents. That is despite the fact that more than 50 percent of Massachusetts adult learners enrolled in fully online programs say they would have enrolled in a similar UMass program if it were offered. By focusing on education for adult learners, Southern New Hampshire’s enrollment has surged to 93,000 fully-online students, compared to 5,600 at UMass.”

President Meehan ended his speech with, “We must take bold and decisive steps to ensure that we continue to fulfill our critical mission of access, opportunity, and excellence, to remain the world-class public research university the Saxon Commission envisioned 30 years ago—the world-class public research university this Commonwealth needs and deserves.”

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