The University of Connecticut's chief financial officer, Richard D. Gray, is recommending an increase of about 6.3 percent in tuition, room and board for the 2010-11 academic year.
If the university's board of trustees adopts Gray's proposal at its meeting next week, it would mean that in-state students would pay an additional $1,228 for tuition, room, board and fees while out-of-state students would pay an extra $2,212.
Currently, in-state students are paying $19,788 for tuition, room, board and fees; next year, that expense would rise to $21,016 under this proposal. For out-of-state students, the expense would go from $35,388 this year to $37,600 next year.
Gray said in a meeting with reporters Monday morning that although a 6.3 percent increase is not small, "We are still a tremendous value." He said the university has - and would continue to have, even with this increase - the fifth-lowest tuition among peer public universities. "We are right in the middle of our peers," he said.
On Monday afternoon, a small but energetic group of students marched around campus, urging students to protest the proposed tuition increase and to attend a forum later in the day. "Hold the administration accountable," Charlie Feigin, a junior, called to students who walked briskly through the cold. "They are trying to radically increase tuition."
Jason Ortiz, a UConn senior and one of the organizers of the protest, said the university is "continuously balancing the budget off the backs of the students and the teachers. . . . I am not accepting any [increase] until we get an honest conversation," he said.
Ortiz said his classes have been getting bigger, and he had to switch his major because he wasn't able to get the classes he needed.
At a forum later in the day about 100 students, faculty and staff gathered to hear Gray and President Michael J. Hogan answer budget-related questions.
Many questioned the need for the proposed 6.3 percent increase, raising questions about whether the university is spending too much money on athletics, lighting buildings in the middle of the night, and the honors program.
Allison Casaly, a student from Texas, said she was concerned about how much more out-of-state students will have to pay. "I'm also concerned about what they are spending the money on," said Casaly. "They put in these flat-screen TV sets in the library. I don't think that's necessary at all."
Jason Bean, a student from Bozrah, said he works two jobs to pay for his own education. "In my time, I've seen you guys waste so much money. ... These tuition increases are forcing me out of here."
The board of trustees will not necessarily adopt Gray's suggested increases. Last year, Hogan, the university's faculty and student leaders recommended an 8.67 percent increase, but the board settled on a 6 percent increase.
Gray noted that it is important to keep the university operating at a level where students can get the classes they need when they need them, rather than having to attend an extra semester because of reduced course offerings. The cost of an extra semester, he noted, is about $9,000 - far more than what students would have to pay under the proposed 6.3 percent increase.He said his proposal would preserve staffing and include plans for additional staffing, though the rate of hiring may be slowed down.
He said prospects for the following year - the academic year 2011-12 - are more troubling because of potentially large state budget deficits, the lapse of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act protections and the struggling economy. He said it's possible the tuition increase percentage might reach double digits then.
Brien Buckman, a student from South Windsor, said he wondered if 6.3 percent is actually high enough, particularly given the possibility that an increase of as much as 13 percent might be necessary in 2011-12. "I'm trying to think long term," he said. "What do we want from the university? We want the stature and the brand of the university to increase."
Gray said the university is making plans for the 2011-12 year now and is looking at other sources of revenue, including expanding summer school programs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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