The Massachusetts Legislature has given preliminary approval to a budget proposal that includes $479 million for the University of Massachusetts system.

The state’s top higher education official is celebrating the nine percent increase in spending at a time when more and more jobs require some level of college education.

Massachusetts has traditionally underfunded its public academic institutions. Two years ago, the state ranked 30 among the 50 states in higher education funding per student. So, to the state's higher education commissioner Richard Freeland, the proposed budget looks ‘real good’ for UMass, for state universities, and for community colleges.

“We are deeply grateful for the Legislature and the Governor for this show of confidence in what public higher education is doing," Freeland said. "We intend to deliver on the promise we have made that if we get more money we will improve outcomes.”

The budget is a strong affirmation that schools need to get better results – to close achievement gaps and improve graduation rates.

“One of the things this budget does is incorporate a new formula for distributing dollars to the community colleges, which was developed collaboratively between the department of higher education, the presidents of the community colleges and the MTA [Massachusetts Teachers’ Association].”

In the coming weeks, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is expected to approve the additional spending on public higher education, which will allow the university system to freeze tuition and fees for students next year.