Friday, December 14, 2007

UMASS Boston Expansion Imperative

Today's news coming from the Boston Globe on the proposed UMASS Boston expansion rocks my socks. Here's the gist:

In the first phase of the blueprint, university officials are proposing to spend $750 million over the next decade to build three academic buildings along a central walkway bisecting the campus, two dormitories for 1,000 students, and a 1,000-space above-ground parking garage....

University officials said the overhaul would reorient the campus to create a close-knit and collegial atmosphere more akin to a traditional liberal arts college than an urban commuter school.

"It will change the whole culture of the campus," Chancellor J. Keith Motley said in a meeting this week with the Globe in which he detailed the school's plans. "It will create a much more open and vibrant community."

Let's examine just a few ways this plan is a great idea, in no particular order.
  • It'll be great for UMASS Boston, able to expand its already very strong academic programs, going far beyond the ranks of just a commuter school.
  • It'll become an even better school for commuters. Not only will the school get a new, functioning, large parking garage (which it currently lacks), it'll include a far more attractive campus, with new buildings, set for the new millennium. Academic quality will rise because of this plan - and ultimately, that's good for commuters.
  • The young adults of this state, often just graduating from High School, deserve a more affordable option for college in Boston than the likes of BU, Northeastern and Suffolk - all upwards of $40 grand or beyond when living expenses are factored in. It shouldn't be a privilege to be able to afford college in this state's capital.
  • It will bring a lot of income and new people into a community of Boston that needs it. For every dollar invested in a public college, the community creates $3-4.
  • Having a full-scale, academically superior public university in the city of Boston will be the ultimate success in establishing the city as the Athens of America. It can never be that unless students are given the chance to have the full college experience at an affordable price, which currently doesn't exist in Boston.

The people of this state and the city of Boston deserve it. I can't possibly fathom one legitimate reason why UMASS Boston shouldn't be expanded to include residents, as well as more academic buildings and a far nicer campus. For too long, private colleges have dominated the landscape of all of Massachusetts, helping create the haves and have nots of the Bay State, all the while most graduates of this state's private schools move along to the 49 states in this country, while the majority of the state school grads stay home.

Of course, as we've seen with UMASS Dartmouth trying to expand to include a public law school, Boston's many universities are quite effective in resisting a stronger public university system. What's more dangerous to BU and Northeastern than a school that can compete with them - and cost half as much? They'll certainly lose tens of thousands of talented students from this state, especially if UMASS Boston expands beyond two dorms (and I'm sure, eventually, they will), but schools in Boston tend to have plenty of applicants and donors to keep them competitive even at higher costs. Furthermore, maybe a public college with dorms to compete with them could help keep down costs for everyone? Even if it doesn't, no Bay State student should have to decide between being around a hundred thousand dollars in debt - or missing out in the Boston college experience, if that's what they desire.


tblade said...

As a UMB student, let me just say YAY!

Granted I wont be there when this happens, but you always want the best for places for which you have affection. One problem a school like UMB has with its ugly-ass often times broke down campus is you hear the faculty gripe. There's always a fear that the most talented faculty will want to leave. I hope this makes some of UMB's best and brightest scholars find a more comfortable home.

Savin Hill said...

Sorry to disagree - but you've missed the entire reason for U/Mass Boston's existence. It's mission is to ensure that non-traditional Boston area students have an opportunity to achieve a college education. More traditional students have other choices in the state college system - U/Mass Boston is meant to be different. And let's not forget the promises made to the Dorchester community back in the early 70's - no dorms, ever. We don't want to lose our neighborhoods - and become like our Brighton or Allston neighbors!

Jimmy said...

savin hill is right. Ryan, the reason you can't fathom opposition to this is b/c you probably have never lived in Dorchester, and have zero understanding of the neighborhood and the people who reside there.

The new academic buildings and renovations being made to current buildings are great. But dorms defeat the entire purpose of the University.

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