Public, land-grant universities, such as the University of Connecticut, are meant to provide a quality education at an affordable cost. The UConn Board of Trustees’ consideration of a 31 percent tuition increase over the next years violates this principle. According to coverage from The Daily Campus, the incremental increases—slated to be 6.7 percent next year—will mean an increase of “$700 for in-state and $950 for out-of-state students…” With increasing tuition costs, UConn threatens both the ability of in-state residents to attend, and also limits the appeal for out-of-state students. While this tuition increase has been touted as necessary, such increases must be kept at the bare-minimum, so as to preserve the mission of a public university.
As per reports from the Hartford Courant, the projected increase would provide “$12.8 million toward closing the $40.2 million budget gap” next year. The UConn Board of Trustees will be voting on the measure on Dec. 16; before then, the administration has attempted to quell student concerns. A Daily Campus report documented a town hall meeting, in which officials, such as vice provost Mun Choi, discussed the proposal with students. During the meeting, chief financial officer Scott Jordan argued, “We need to raise tuition to keep UConn great.” While it is understandable that tuition must rise, the administration must make an effort to trim expenses in other areas before considering a tuition increase or academic faculty cuts. Deterring top-tier in-state and out-of-state students, as well as cutting faculty, would diminish the greatness of which Jordan spoke.
The administration must also consider the impact on out-of-state students in the tuition increase. The Hartford Courant puts out-of-state tuition and fees at $47,082 for this academic year. If the cost for out-of-state students begins to match that of other top-caliber state institutions, many will likely turn down UConn in favor of higher ranked universities, such as UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, and the University of Michigan. UConn’s relatively low cost for out-of-state students have driven many talented students to accept UConn’s offer over those of these competing institutions. With an increase in costs, students will be less likely to choose UConn.
Further, the University of Maine recently announced a program which charges out-of-state students the tuition fees of their home state public university, according to the Hartford Courant. This means that a Connecticut resident could attend UMaine for the same tuition as UConn, greatly increasing the competitiveness of the Orono, Maine university.
With decreasing state commitments and increasing costs, it is clear that UConn must find a way to cover a significant budget deficit. However, while tuition increases may bridge this gap, such increased costs must be kept to an absolute minimum. UConn will not be able to compete as a public university if fees rise to a point at which Connecticut residents can no longer afford to attend, and out-of-state students no longer see Storrs as an attractive option.