Proposed housing fee increase scrapped
A proposal by UConn administrators to increase housing fees by up to 6.5 percent has been tabled for
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 22:02
A proposal put forward by several University of Connecticut administrators to increase housing fee rates by up to 6.5 percent next year has been scrapped for the time being, but other fee increases are still on the table.
The UConn Board of Trustees was poised to consider the proposed increase in housing rates, which was first presented at a public hearing earlier this month. But the proposal — which would have translated to an additional $500 for undergraduate students on top of current fees — has since been discarded.
Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Gilbert worked with Executive Vice President Richard Gray and Provost Mun Choi on the proposal. Gilbert was not available for comment for this article, but Michael Daniels — the student-elected undergraduate representative for the board of trustees — said the proposal was pulled in order to allow more time to investigate the necessity of the fee increase.
In an interview last week, Gilbert said the increase would have funded “deferred maintenance costs” for existing UConn dormitories — including renovating bathrooms, repairing roofs and installing emergency power sources for residential life facilities.
Shortly after the administrators came forward with the proposal, the Undergraduate Student Government spoke out against it — saying the administrators hadn’t vetted the fee enough to justify increasing the burden on students.
The USG Senate passed a resolution at its Feb. 12 meeting opposing the increase. USG Senator Kevin Alvarez, who was present at the initial hearing, said the administrators did not have an answer when they brought up alternative funds for the suggested deferred maintenance projects.
“At the public forum it was stated that the funds from Next Generation Connecticut have not been factored in accordingly to the above mentioned housing rate increase,” the legislation reads, referring to the $1.5 billion capital investment fund recently approved by the state legislature.
The Next Generation fund does include money set aside for deferred maintenance and housing at the Storrs campus, but in a recent interview UConn President Susan Herbst clarified that those funds would not cover the type of dorm renovations proposed by Gilbert, Choi and Gray. Gilbert also denied that NextGen funds could be used for dorm renovations in a Feb. 12 interview.
Daniels said he also wants to see a more detailed, prioritized list of the deferred maintenance projects before he will support a housing rate hike.
“While a number of those (deferred maintenance projects) seem legitimate, I was hoping to see a more detailed list of the pressing concerns before we pass an increase that high,” he said.
Daniels said a fee hike as high as 6 percent will not likely show up again this year, but the board will probably approve a standard 3 percent increase — to keep up with inflation and operating costs — before the end of the year.
The board is set to consider standard increases to the general university and transit fees at its Wednesday meeting.
The current general university fee is $1,848 per year for undergraduate students, but the board will consider a 3.6 percent bump in that price (to $1,914).
That fee, known as the GUF fee, funds “student related programs and institutional services of those programs,” according to the UConn Bursar Office’s website. That includes programs such as the One Card Office, Student Health Services, Career Services and parking.
In the proposed budget for GUF fee revenues, the Jorgenson Center for the Performing Arts will receive the biggest influx of cash, bumping its budget from $1.35 million to $1.49 million.
The board will also consider a $10 increase in the transit fee. A proposal to the board authored by Gray and Choi states, “the primary rationale for this adjustment is increased fuel prices, labor costs and maintenance of the shuttle buses and accessible vans.”
The board of trustees’ monthly meeting will begin at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday at Rome Commons in South Campus’ Snow Hall. The proposed fee increases are slated as the fifth agenda item.