After holding two town hall meetings last week about the proposed increase in tuition over the next four years, the Undergraduate Student Government voiced concerns over the decisions at senate, Wednesday.
Tuition is expected to increase from $10,524 to $13,366 for in-state students and from $32,066 to $34,309 for out-of-state to cover the close to $40.2 million budget gap in the next fiscal year.
University of Connecticut Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan presented a breakdown of the budget to USG, highlighting areas where cuts have been but said just spending less will not keep UConn at the national standing it holds.
“We can’t cut our way to greatness,” Jordan said.
The U.S. News and World Report currently rank UConn as the 19th best public university. Jordan said one of the factors in this is UConn’s commitment to a lower faculty to student ratio, currently 16.8:1, down from four years ago at 18.3:1. This allows more sections of classes to be held, so students can graduate in four years.
“That’s honestly the very best thing we can do for you. Being able to graduate in four years lowers a family’s costs by 25 percent as opposed to 5 years,” Jordan said.
Besides raising tuition, UConn is looking at other means to close the budget gap. Jordan said the school is planning to increase funding for the endowment and receive funding for facilities through the NextGen program. He also said that “money-making programs” such as online programs, entrepreneurial initiatives and the opening of the Hartford Campus in 2017.
Jordan said the enrollment would need to see a drastic increase to make a dent in the budget gap. UConn only earns the interest off the nearly $40 million but to see an relatively meaningful amount, the total would have to be closer to one billion dollars.
The university also plans to lobby for less cuts and more funding from the state. In a special session, state legislature voted to cut the budget by $8.5 million instead of the proposed $20 million.
“With that amount, we expect not to make any cuts you would expect to see in the coming year,” Jordan said.
Deputy speaker George Wang asked what other ways the school is considering to diversify revenue streams. Jordan said UConn will expect funds from research grants, some of which goes to the school, and auxiliary activities like athletics. He also said commercialization and patents of products developed at UConn could be a possible source of revenue, much like Gatorate for University of Florida.
“You can’t count on it. It could happen tomorrow, it could happen 10 years from now,” he said.
According to Jordan, none of these cuts will increase UConn’s financial aid. About 15 percent of tuition revenue is allotted to aid each year and closer to 16 percent was set aside this year.
In order to keep that at a high level, Jordan said UConn is cutting back on enrollment to decrease costs.
“We are not balancing the entire budget on tuition. This is only about a third of it. The rest we’ll either have to make up by cutting costs, and we will relentlessly do that, and getting more help from the state,” Jordan said.
Tuition is allocated by provost, deans and department heads to academic functions. The other two-thirds of the budget goes towards funding student affairs, cultural centers and operations costs, including fire, police and utilities.
By increasing costs, UConn will still maintain its place as the most cost effective option for in-state students and a middle-of-the road, price-wise, choice for out-of-state. It is the second-most expensive public school in the area, behind University of Vermont. Jordan noted that UVM’s students are mostly out-of-state and therefore has a different budget structure than UConn.
“We are very committed to maintaining the quality of the university,” Jordan said. “The worst thing that could happen is for it to become harder to graduate.”
Nicholas Shigo is the associate News editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.