The UMASS Board of Trustees is expected to announce tuition and fee increases today for the Fall semester.

Trustees are gathering in Worcester and are expected to vote to increase tuition and fees by 2 to 3 percent for students at the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses.  Tuition rates for the medical college in Worcester were set earlier this year.  UMASS President Marty Meehan tells the Associated Press the increases are necessary to maintain quality.

The increased cost to students to attend the UMASS system will result in deeper post college debt for many students. This at a time when the Baker Administration and some in the legislature are exploring "free" or "debt free" college for some or all Massachusetts students.

The bloated cost of higher education in Massachusetts is nauseating, especially when you begin to examine some of the salaries being paid to many in the UMASS system. Most of the highest paid state employees are on the UMASS payroll.

Head Basketball Coach Derek Kellogg was paid $1.06 million dollars last year and is the highest paid state employee. UMASS Chancellor and Senior VP of Health Sciences Michael Collins collected $938 thousand dollars. UMASS President Marty Meehan earned a paltry $593 thousand dollars by comparison.

In fairness, not all of UMASS funding comes from the taxpayers. The system also collects grants, private donations and fees for services.

Those who support "free" college say it's unfair for students to face tens of thousands of dollars in debt when they leave school. I agree. But, before we start providing "free" college as a solution to that problem how about if we begin examining the question of why higher education is so expensive in the first place?

It appears as though we may have found a place to begin that discussion.

Editor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.