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Higher-ed bill a boon for UML

By From the Lowell Sun

By Hillary Chabot
Lowell Sun

BOSTON -- Public colleges and universities in Greater Lowell netted $90.3 million in a higher-education bond bill expected to be filed by Gov. Deval Patrick today.

The $2 billion, 10-year bond bill directs $26 million for a new academic building at UMass Lowell and $10 million for a new academic building at the Lowell campus of the Middlesex Community College.

"Obviously, the governor recognizes the importance of these projects, and I'm glad he's included them in his earmarks," said Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell.

The bill split the $2 billion among the UMass universities and state colleges.

"This administration is committed to providing our students the highest quality public education possible so that they are prepared to compete with their peers across the country and throughout the world," Patrick said in a statement.

The bond bill, which is the first substantial bill devoted solely to higher education since 1995, also provides:

* $10 million to the North Quad modernization at UMass Lowell.

* $24 million to Middlesex Community College for a new academic building on its Bedford campus.

* $9 million toward UMass Lowell's Institute of Plastics Innovations.

* $7.2 million for a new performing-arts center at the Lowell campus of the MCC.

* $4 million in repairs to Olney Hall and stormwater management at UMass Lowell.

"Clearly, the governor and the Lowell delegation ... have all worked with us to raise higher education to a priority, and they clearly see that it's the future of the region," said MCC President Carole Cowan. "I think these recommendations are in line with recognizing that the commonwealth will depend on the college system for its future economic growth."

Cowan said the buildings funded under the plan are all part of the college's master plan, and will help meet the future growth needs of both the Lowell and Bedford campuses.

Representatives from UMass Lowell did not return a call for comment.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, said the funding is an even better boost because it's above and beyond the $35 million set aside for the emerging technology center at UMass Lowell.

"In the next five years, there will be significant infrastructure improvement in UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College, and they are desperately needed," Panagiotakos said.