By From the Lowell Sun
The proposal to spend $295 million in state money for renovations and new construction at the UMass Lowell campus over the next five years is a plan that contains many much-needed elements.
A new academic building hasn't been built on campus in 40 years and is certainly something for which the school cries out. A number of UMass Lowell's academic buildings are aging and need repairs, if not replacement.
If Massachusetts wants to be competitive in attracting students to its state university system, it must update buildings, provide state-of-the-art laboratory space, adequate parking and instruction in emerging technologies.
The UMass Lowell spending is part of a $2.9 billion capital plan for the entire UMass system. It also includes $23 million for a desperately needed parking garage on the North Campus and $80 million for an emerging-technologies building.
It is long past time the Bay State significantly increased its investment in higher education. The state's economic future depends on having an educated, skilled workforce. And, let's face it, many Massachusetts families have been priced out of the private college market where annual costs can easily be $40,000 to $50,000.
Two-thirds of Massachusetts' high-school graduates attend public higher education as private institutions have become increasingly expensive and competitive, now recruiting students from across the globe. Of those Massachusetts students attending public colleges or universities, 85 percent remain in the state after graduation to live and work, aiding our economy.
But without an infusion of money into public higher education, Massachusetts runs a serious risk of becoming a second-class state with a second-class economy.
The UMass capital plan may be modified as the years -- and the needs of students and the university -- progress, but there is no doubt that a significant investment in UMass Lowell's campuses is necessary and will pay for itself in the long run.
The UMass capital plan will be before the Board of Trustees for final approval on Sept. 19. We recommend the board support the proposal.