Documents show cost of UConn on increasing trend
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 00:10
College is getting a lot more expensive, but it’s not a new phenomenon. Since its inception in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural School, the cost of attending UConn has increased in both dollar value and in relation to an average income.
Documents housed at the Dodd Center detail how tuition, housing and miscellaneous fees have increased as a percentage of a manufacturing worker’s yearly wage. This measure was used from 1881 to 1992 as an example of a typical low to middle class worker’s income.
In 1881, the cost of attending UConn for one year was $154, or 38 percent of a manufacturing worker’s annual income. This amount included tuition, board, fees and miscellaneous expenses such as textbooks, transportation, clothing and social expenses. No fee was charged for housing and no financial aid was available to students.
Rent was first charged in 1915. A $50 yearly charge, about $1,100 in today’s terms, covered heating and room rent. By this time the yearly cost of attending school here had increased to $600 (equivalent to $13,000 today). But so too had average wages. The annual fee represented only 30 percent of a manufacturing worker’s income.
Additional fees came along in 1917 ($10 annual athletic fee) and 1929 ($9.50 activities fee).
By 1992, the last year in which the manufacturing worker’s wage was used as a measure, the annual cost of attending UConn had risen to $10,200. This was equal to 43 percent of a manufacturing worker’s income and equates to about $16,440 in today’s terms.
Fee increases often occurred regardless of economic downturns. During the Great Depression, the cost of attending UConn reached its highest level in 66 years and represented 54 percent of a manufacturing worker’s annual income in 1930. In the years of financial crisis since 2007, the cost of attending UConn as an in-state student living in a dormitory has increased by roughly $1,500 per year.
Given the high cost of college relative to an average income, financial aid was introduced in 1893. The Storrs Agricultural College Bulletin stated “those in limited circumstances can have tuition ($25) remitted.” Further financial assistance was offered for academic performance. The Bulletin said “industrious pupils (can) earn from $25 to $75 a year which is credited upon their bills.”
Fee bills today paint a different picture. Accounting for inflation, $75 in 1893 would be worth about $1,800 in today’s terms. But even a credit of $1,800 would barely make a dent in some UConn students’ fee bills.
According to the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, the annual cost for an in-state undergraduate living in a dormitory is $22,622. This cost increases to $29,150 for a northeast regional student, or $40,454 for a non-resident.
Fees levied today include those for WHUS and UCTV, charges which would have been beyond the imaginations of students at Storrs Agricultural College in 1881.
Today UConn financial aid bears almost no resemblance to the modest assistance offered to students in 1893. The Office of Student Financial Aid Services administers a wide range of scholarships, grants and loans based on need and merit. As the cost of college continues to increase so too do services to ensure that students can still attend UConn.