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UConn proposes increasing tuition 2.5%

By Joseph Adinolfi
On March 18, 2011

If the UConn Board of Trustees approves the 2.5 percent tuition proposed by Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Gray, it will be the smallest increase in 10 years. Student leaders, however, are worried that such a small increase may prove irresponsible in the long run.

A memo written by Gray and addressed to the Board of Trustees, UConn Health Center Board of Directors, UConn Foundation Board of Directors and the UConn Alumni Association Board of Directors indicated that, in addition to the $35 million in proposed cuts to state block grants, UConn will also have to compensate for a $10 million cut in money to pay fringe benefits, increasing the total budget shortfall to about $45 million.

Both Undergraduate Student Trustee Corey Schmitt and USG President Tom Haggerty agree that the proposed increase announced Thursday – which will generate an additional $9 million in revenue, increase in-state tuition by about $400 and out-of-state tuition by about $1,000 – will leave the university with a large budget deficit. It will force drastic cuts to student services and amenities and negatively impact the school's reputation, they said.

"I won't vote for it," said Schmitt. "We're basically looking at a $45-million deficit for fiscal year 2012. My question is how are we going to fill the $45 million hole?"

Gray could not be reached for comment.

University spokesman Michael Kirk told The Connecticut Mirror that UConn will find other revenue sources, including increasing parking fines and the number of online and summer courses, to close the shortfall.

Michael Meotti, the commissioner of higher education, told the Hartford Courant that he doubts the cuts will have a significant effect on the quality of life at UConn.

Schmitt and Haggerty said that it is unlikely that there will be any cuts to the academic core of the university.

"I can't say for sure what will be cut," Schmitt said. "But I think we're going to see a lot of student services definitely decline.

You're not going to see enhancements to dining halls, residence halls, the rec center or Student Health Services."

Schmitt acknowledged that the university is under pressure to keep tuition at a manageable level, but said that it is no excuse for leaving so many factors to chance.

"The problem with [the proposed tuition increase] is that there are so many unknown variables. We don't know what is going to happen yet with the unions," Schmitt said.

Schmitt said that UConn expects concessions from the faculty and staff unions, but there is no guarantee that they will materialize.

An agreement reached with the UConn chapter of the American Association for University Professors in 2009 froze faculty wages for the 2010 Fiscal Year and mandated 10 furlough days.

A low tuition increase could decrease the amount of financial aid the university can offer. About 17 cents from every tuition dollar goes toward financial aid.

Haggerty said that students should consider supporting a higher increase, but that, in any case, the final decision is a question of priorities.

"If students want the same UConn that they know and expect, they're just going to have to pay more for that," Haggerty said. "Are you willing to pay enough to go to a university that you know and love?"

Last year, the board of trustees voted to raise tuition by about 5.7 percent.

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