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editorial: Conn. Board of Regents proposes a modest tuition increase in 2015

By Editorial Board
On March 11, 2014

On February 26 of this year, Gregory W. Gray, who serves as president of the Board of Regents - a body that governs all 17 of Connecticut's public universities and colleges - decided that he would petition the governing board for a "modest" tuition increase of only two percent for the next fiscal year. His decision comes at a time when the board is facing $4.5 million in lingering deficits and some $11 million in vacancies across public institutions of higher learning. Concurrently, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced plans, pending state legislature approval, to infuse the Board of Regents with $45.1 million by July 1, which would provide a great boon to President Gray's initiative. Regardless of the state legislature's decision, the Board of Regents should undoubtedly approve the modest two percent tuition increase.
Concerning Gov. Malloy's multimillion cash infusion - dubbed "Transform CSCU 2020" - President Gray made sure to point out that the lump-sum payment is not a bailout, rather it will be used to fund various initiatives designed to attract enrollees. Two such initiatives include expanding the "early college" program to every community college so that high school students across the state can accumulate college credit before formally enrolling, and a buy-one-get-one-free process through which students who dropped out early will be enticed to attempt graduating again. As Jacqueline Thomas of The CT Mirror points out, should these initiatives be enacted, the Board of Regents expects an additional 4,000 students to join the current total of 92,000 by next year.
President Gray's negligible tuition increase is not without its detractors, however, as seen in state Senator Joe Markley's assertion that nothing would give him less confidence in the Board of Regents to oversee the Governor's impending cash infusion. Sen. Markley's complaint seems rather exaggerated given that the former Board of Regents President, Robert Kennedy, had to resign for unilaterally approving executive pay raises, which something surely more irresponsible than a modest tuition hike. A more fair criticism comes from House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero who notes that Transform CSCU 2020 is "pennies on the dollar" compared to the billions given to UConn, but Sen. Cafero ultimately misses the big picture.
The debt from student loans is now the largest sector of debt in the country, totaling $1 trillion according to the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau, and as tuition prices continue to skyrocket across the country - looking at you, NYU - potential college students find themselves with fewer options to stay competitive. President Gray's relatively small increase in tuition is certainly not irresponsible when compared to the unrestrained hikes of other schools, and may ultimately attract an increasingly fiscally strained population of potential students.


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