The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees voted Thursday to increase tuition for in-state students by 5.66 percent, or $432, for the 2010-11 academic year. Fees, room and board are also going up, for an overall 5.9 percent increase, or $1,180, for in-state students living on campus.
The tuition increase — smaller than the 6.3 percent recommended by UConn officials last week — was approved after board members heard a wide variety of views on the subject from students, faculty and staff.
Board members, too, were divided about the amount of the increase — some felt the economy dictated little or no increase, and others, concerned about academic quality and UConn's future financial strength, pressed for increases as steep as 7.5 percent. "It was a tremendous dialogue," said Lawrence McHugh, president of the board of trustees, after the meeting.
Assuming that state funding for the university will remain flat, university officials expect that a 5.66 percent increase in tuition for next year will yield a deficit of between $1.5 million and $2 million. President Michael J. Hogan said after the meeting that he hopes to balance the budget without cutting into the academic core of the university, instead cutting back on services such as bus service and limiting the hours that certain buildings are open.
The trustees also discussed hiring a consultant to assess the operation of the university in an effort to reduce costs. Peter S. Drotch, chairman of the trustees' financial affairs committee, said the university must find "structural changes" not only to control costs, but also to reduce "costs in absolute terms."
As it is, university officials were predicting that even if a tuition increase of 6.67 percent had been approved, the university could have faced a deficit of $20 million in 2012.
In addition to the 5.66 percent tuition increase, in-state students who live on campus face a 7.01 percent increase for room and 6.01 percent for board, raising the total bill to $20,968 from this school year's $19,788.
Comparing The Numbers
Tuition and mandatory fees, excluding room and board, for 2009-10 for UConn and other comparable state universities
Public University In-state students Out-of-state students
Penn State $14,416 $25,946
Univ. of Vermont $13,524 $31,380
Univ. of NewHampshire $12,743 $26,713
Univ. of Massachusetts $11,732 $19,955
Univ. of Connecticut $9,886 $25,486
Univ. of Rhode Island $9,528 $25,486
Univ. of Maryland $8,053 $23,990
SOURCE: University of Connecticut
For out-of-state students, tuition, fees, room and board will increase by 5.78 percent or $2,044 — from $35,388 this year to $37,432 next year.
During the meeting, trustees expressed a variety of concerns, as did students, faculty and staff.
Richard Colon Jr., the graduate student representative on the board, made a motion for a 7.5 percent increase in tuition, saying he feared that without a substantial increase, the quality of education would "drastically change" and the value of a UConn degree would decline.
"We didn't come here because it is the cheapest option," said Colon. "We came because the degree is valuable."
Colon said UConn has improved greatly since his undergraduate years.
"If we don't raise tuition enough, we will take a step backward" to the days when the university was considered "a safety school," Colon said.
Already, he said, class sizes are increasing and students are unable to get into the classes they need to graduate on time.
Colon's proposal, backed by Corey M. Schmitt, the trustee representing undergraduates, was turned down.
Colon tried again with a proposal for a 6.3 percent increase, but that was also rejected.
Among the students who spoke was Steven Waslo, a freshman, who said he was concerned about any tuition increases, particularly when his family is facing steep medical bills for his sister.
Waslo asked the board to "find ways to make the education affordable to us."
Tom Haggerty, president of the undergraduate student body, and Andrew Grubb, president of the graduate students, sought increases greater than 6.3 percent to preserve academic quality. Haggerty and other students said they planned to ask legislators to reprioritize UConn.
"I don't think 5.66 is really enough to sustain the university," said Haggerty after the vote. "What happened today, happened today, but this is the start of a campaign to go to the state to tell them we need their help."
John Clausen, a professor in the department of natural resources and environmental science and chairman of the university senate's executive committee, expressed support for a 6.3 percent increase, saying he fears that the university has already begun "a precipitous slide to mediocrity."
Without sufficient funding, Clausen said, he fears there will be negative consequences to the university that will come on "like climate change, gradually like a melting glacier. ... I don't want to reach a tipping point from which we cannot recover."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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