Cutting programs, staff and ribbons: A study in contrast at UMass Boston

BOSTON — It was a tale of two cities at UMass Boston Tuesday.

On the same day the school debuted new dorms, commuter students railed against rising parking fees.

The issue is around a celebration for a multi-million-dollar dorm while programs and staff have been cut and parking fees are set to more than double to $15 per day.

“They were upset about the parking fee raise, they were upset about the cuts to some of the programs. Well, nobody wants to pay parking rates and I think they’ve gone a long time where they’ve gone without an increase,” UMass University System President Marty Meehan told Boston 25 News.

At Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, University leaders described the project as long overdue and a ‘transformation’ for UMass Boston.

“It’s transformational physically,” Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman said. “It’s transformational socially. It’s a landmark of integration across class and race lines in this building. That’s what we need in this country.”

But one group of students and staff are worried the change is not for the better.

“People come to this campus because it’s supposed to be affordable. If you start raising the fees it makes it harder for people to come,” student Christopher Simon said. “I’m worried about who I’m going to lose here on campus.”

The protestors Tuesday criticized the administration for building a new dorm while students while staff see classes and programs cut to pay of the school’s historic debt and students see parking fees more than double.

The deal itself is an example of the school’s debt crisis.

The group says the school is celebrating bringing in students to a campus riddled with so much debt they technically won’t even own the dorm for another 40 years.

Developer Capstone paid for its construction and is leasing the land.

To manage this debt, the school says they are hopeful the state bails them out, but in the meantime, they have to raise fees -- including the parking fees that are currently $6.

“I’m hopeful, also, that we can get the state to provide more money,” Meehan said.

Capstone development built the dorms at the cost of $120 million and get all the revenue for the project while leasing the land from the school.

Students move in next Tuesday and President Meehan says the school plans to increase the number of commuter students that attend while attracting students who want to attend a highly ranked school with a residence hall.

MORE: 25 Investigates: Mass. universities struggle to meet mental health demands

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