Gov. Patrick Announces $5.2 M For UMass Springfield Construction
State funding totaling more than $10 million was announced today for several projects in western Massachusetts involving education, energy and recreation.
The Patrick administration announced three separate grants to complete construction of the UMass Springfield Center, make improvements to a riverfront park in Springfield, and create a university extension service initiative for renewable and clean energy.
Gov. Deval Patrick joked to a gathering of about 100 business and community leaders in Springfield Thursday morning that he had “brought a check.”
" I am here to announce $5.2 million in additional funding to complete the construction of the UMass Center in Springfield. That funding assures UMass center will open as scheduled this fall with some 40 undergrad and graduate courses," said Patrick.
Classrooms for the satellite campus are under construction on the second floor of the Tower Square office building on Main Street in downtown Springfield. Patrick, last November, announced the selection of the site to house the UMass system’s first satellite campus. University officials in March opened a welcome center on the first floor for perspective students to register for classes.
This marks the first direct state investment in the project, according to a university spokesperson who said the state money will be used for up-front building costs. The satellite campus has a $2 million annual operating budget which is included in the UMass budget. Half of UMass funding comes from student tuition and fees and half from state taxpayers.
Patrick said the grant for the UMass Springfield Center is in keeping with his philosophy of investing in infrastructure and education to help grow the state’s economy.
" Brain power is as important to our economy as oil is to Texas and corn to Iowa. We have to cultivate it. That is why we emphasis investment in education."
Private colleges in Springfield are concerned about the competition posed by the new presence of the state’s land grant university in the heart of the city. UMass President Robert Caret said he is exploring joint efforts with the city’s private colleges.
" I've suggested looking at '3 plus 2 programs' where a student might take three years at a private school and come to UMass for a fourth and fifth year to get a masters degree in programs they may not offer."
Governor Patrick Thursday also announced $1.3 million to fund improvements to Springfield’s North Riverfront Park. The upgrades will include a fitness trail and series of exercise stations along the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said the project, slated for completion a year from now, will further open up the city’s downtown riverfront for public use.
" It will open it up all the way from the North End to the South End."
Also Thursday, the state’s energy secretary Richard Sullivan announced a 4-year, $6 million grant to launch an energy extension service at UMass Amherst. This will provide expertise to local governments, industry, nonprofits and other organizations across the state on renewable and clean energy projects.