Lowell Sun | By Todd Feathers
October 3, 2016
LOWELL — UMass will pump $2.5 billion into its five campuses over the next five years to repair aging buildings and infrastructure.
Most of that money will go to the Boston and Amherst campuses, while Lowell will receive $14 million to add elevators to Fox Hall.
Even critics of the university system’s capital plans agree that the deferred-maintenance backlog needs to be taken care of, but the size of the current plan has caused sticker shock given recent hikes in tuition and the prospect of new construction projects that will lead to even more maintenance down the road.
“The state did decide to delay all these projects,” UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney said. “You look at Fox Hall — those issues should have been addressed 10 to 15 years ago. … For us to improve our reputation, for us to recruit students, you can’t have them come into a failing infrastructure.”
The university system’s stated goal to attract more out-of-state students has been a point of contention, especially following a report by the nonprofit watchdog Pioneer Institute in May that questioned whether UMass was pursuing higher out-of-state tuitions at the expense of better serving students from within Massachusetts.
In that report, however, the Pioneer Institute pointed out that deferred maintenance was one of the areas the university desperately needed to get under control.
“Underfunding of deferred maintenance has left the system with a large inventory of facilities in disrepair,” the authors wrote, adding “In its 2015 Annual Indicators report, the university reported that it was facing a deferred maintenance backlog … totaling $3.33 billion.”