If a proposed 3.8 percent increase in tuition and fees is approved Thursday, Destin Pervis-Pritchett, a junior at Southern Connecticut State University, will pay $315 more next year.
And he's willing to do that -- but only if the increased revenues go to hire more faculty.
"I would like to see 3.8 percent increases in faculty at every school" in the Connecticut State University system, said Pervis-Pritchett, who is a member of Southern's student government. "They must be full-time faculty, not adjuncts or part-time faculty."
On Thursday, the Board of Regents for Higher Education will consider a recommended jump in average tuition and fees at the state's four universities of 3.8 percent for commuter students, an increase that would drive tuition up $315 to an average of $8,556. For in-state residential students at the state universities, the increase would be 3.7 percent, pushing tuition and fees up by $676.
The board also will consider raising tuition and fees by 3.1 percent at the state's 12 community colleges; that hike would push tuition up by $108 to $3,598 next year.
"Obviously we need to balance the budget," said Michael P. Meotti, executive vice president of the regents, "but we're not going to balance the budget ... all on the back of tuition."
Before the reorganization of higher education that took effect last year, the now-defunct Connecticut Community College Board of Trustees had approved a tuition increase of 2.3 percent for 2012-13.
But Meotti said the regents need to raise tuition by a larger amount to cover a particularly significant budget shortfall -- between $8 million and $9 million -- for the community colleges next year.
"We inherited a budget out of balance in the community college system," Meotti said.
The proposed increases are comparatively modest. From 2001 to 2011, tuition and fees rose an average of 6.4 percent per year at the community colleges -- with annual hikes ranging from 2.6 percent to 14.2 percent. At the state universities, the average annual change over the 10-year period was 7.1 percent -- with annual increases ranging from 2.5 percent to 13 percent.
Meotti also said he expects that comparable state universities elsewhere will raise tuition and fees for next year by about 6 percent or 7 percent -- significantly higher than the proposed increase for Connecticut's state universities.
Last year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked state university and college leaders not to exceed a tuition and fee increase of 2.5 percent because of the poor economy. It was a request with which all the state universities and colleges, including the University of Connecticut, complied.
In December, the University of Connecticut trustees approved a four-year plan of increases in tuition and fees, starting with 6 percent next year and climbing steadily to 6.8 percent in 2016.
Meotti said the funds raised by increasing tuition at the four state universities and the community colleges will go to support faculty and student services. "We need to shift our focus to supporting instruction," Meotti said. "The money needs to go to support the direct services that students benefit from and not the administration."
That's the kind of news that students such as Pervis-Pritchett at Southern and Raul DeJesus Jr. at Capital Community College in Hartford want to hear.
"I'm of impoverished background," Pervis-Pritchett said. "For me [a tuition increase] means more loan money in the long run -- money that I don't have. I'm not even making money right now."
But if the funds go to hire more faculty, Pervis-Pritchett won't mind. He's particularly concerned about the possible merger of his department -- anthropology -- with another department. "I think that would harm the credibility of the school," he said.
DeJesus said students will feel the "pinch" of the increased tuition. "I may have to work longer hours, make additional sacrifices to make it happen," DeJesus said.
At the moment, DeJesus, who is a member of Hartford City Council, has one full-time job, two part-time jobs and is a new father.
"At Capital, we juggle a lot," DeJesus said. "My hope is that additional resources can assist me."
He said he hopes to attend a state university next fall.
Linda Domenitz, director of career development and placement at Capital, said students there would benefit if the faculty was increased.
As an adjunct instructor, she said, she is teaching an online psychology class this year with 35 students in it. Last year, the enrollment was only 24.
For many students, Domenitz said, "classes are not running with the frequency they would like, so they can complete at the time they would like."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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