BEDFORD -- The Middlesex Community College Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a fiscal 2020 spending plan that imposes a 2 percent fee increase for students and reduces operating expenses by 3 percent.

The decision was a compromise from the original 5 percent fee increase proposal that sparked outcry earlier in the week. The 2 percent increase will translate to an increase of $5 per credit for students.

Members of the faculty union filled the audience of the meeting, which was moved from the Trustee House to Cafe East to accommodate the expected increased attendance. They held colorful signs with such messages as "Support students not fee increases" and "Keep Middlesex affordable."

The board voted 8-3 to approve the amended plan, with Trustees Linda Banks-Santilli, Annie O'Connor and student representative Bridget Byrne in opposition.

Board of Trustees Chairman James Campbell said they looked at what other colleges throughout the state are doing, including UMass, which is recommending a 2.5 percent increase.

Among those trustees who voted for the fee increase was the board's newest member, James Campanini, The Sun's former editor.

"We also decided to take look at the consumer (price) index, and have decided to come forward this morning with a motion that we feel is necessary to keep the college operating for the coming year," he said.


But for students who are still reeling from the impact of last year's fee increases -- which averaged 24 percent, with some experiencing much higher -- even 2 percent is "too much too soon," Byrne said.

She said she wanted to see a more creative approach to filling the funding gap, such as obtaining revenue from renting out the new arts center.

"I think that the students would appreciate it if more alternatives were given before fees were to be increased," Byrne said.

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