With an anticipated budget gap of $40.2 million the current University of Connecticut plan is to increase tuition by about 31 percent over the next four years with an expected hike of about 6.7 percent in the next fiscal year.
This will amount to an additional cost of $700 for in-state and $950 for out-of-state students over the next academic cycle.
To address student questions about these inevitable tuition hikes over the next few years, UConn Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan, Provost Mun Choi and Vice President for Planning and Management Wayne Locust led town hall meetings Tuesday and Thursday.
“We need to raise tuition to keep UConn great,” said Jordan. “UConn is a great national caliber university and we want to keep it great even as we face increased costs and decreased state support.”
The main cause for the budgetary difficulties stems from state funding not keeping up with the pace of mandated faculty salaries and fringe increases. Despite these difficulties, however, administrators assured students that financial aid programs will not be cut.
“As we talk about our finances all of our numbers are going up,” Jordan said. “The challenge that we face is that the university is growing even as funding is not keeping up.”
The open forum style format gave students the opportunity to ask candid questions. One point of intense discussion was the amount of UConn’s budget allocated on administrative costs, such as the salary of the university’s president Susan Herbst.
“My question is, where exactly does tuition go and I have heard that large amount goes to administrative costs rather than education costs,” chemistry graduate student Gayatri Phadke said.
Administrators assured students that the majority of tuition goes towards academic and faculty expenses. According to Jordan only 2 percent of all university expenses are due to administrative costs and this figure also includes UConn's accounting department.
“The president's salary is in line with other national top public universities and over her time here we have received $1.7 billion worth of investment and $79 million for UConn programs,” Choi aid.
Due to the heavy impact of tuition increases on undocumented students, who are ineligible to receive government aid, members of advocacy group, Connecticut Students for a Dream, were in attendance at the event on Thursday.
During the question session that followed the presentation, C4D regional superintendent and third-semester math education major Eric Cruz-Lopez pressed administrators on their commitment to keep educational opportunities available for those from lower income families.
“Increasing tuition heightens the barriers of success for these low income communities and UConn has made a commitment to improving diversity, but less affordability means less diversity, so how do you respond to that?” Cruz-Lopez said.
Administrators responded by expressing UConn’s resolve to helping undocumented students in the past in the state legislature. In the past the university has advocated for financial aid reform that would improve the accessibility of loans to undocumented students, but none of these efforts have ever passed.
“As far as undocumented students and the support for financial aid legislation UConn has supported,” said Locust “Our goal is to help students regardless to where they come from.”
Despite the answers provided by the administrators there was mixed responses from students about the way administrators responded to questions and the way in which the event was carried out.
“What really annoyed me was how they compared UConn in-state to out-of-state tuition at other schools,” fifth-semester biomedical engineering major Rebeca Eller said. “UConn’s administration did not think of its students and our struggle, and I would love to see some cutbacks in their salary as well”
Nonetheless, the event was largely regarded as insightful into details provided in university expenses even among its critics.
“I thought the tuition increases were reasonable and I understand tuition needs to go up,” WHUS News Director Charlie Smart said. “The first tuition increase isn’t going to hurt anyone, but over the course of several years increasing by about $1000 each year could prove harmful to certain students who are already on the cusp of not being able to afford college. However, I do understand the need to increase tuition.”
The Thursday event concluded with a final request by fifth-semester anthropology and ecology major Saithia Diaz.
“My request to the administrators is that another event like this be held in February after winter break so you can tell us what has been done and what has been considered from this meeting up until that point,” Diaz said.
Specific changes in tuition rates will be approved with the support of the Board of Trustees, announcements on tuition changes will be made by the end of this calendar year.