UConn board okays tuition increase after students worry it’s not enough

One year after students and faculty lined up to tell the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees that a 5.4 percent hike in tuition and fees was too much, just two students turned out for Wednesday’s board meeting–both worried that 2.5 percent is not enough.

“It is not going to sustain us like we need,” said Rich Colon, president of the graduate student senate. “We are actually cutting into our academic core.”

Colon said he has witnessed class sizes double and wait lists grow for needed courses.

student tuition photo

Student Rich Colon tells UConn officials he’s concerned the tuition increase is too small. UConn CFO Richard Gray watches at right


Thomas Haggerty, president of the undergraduate student government, also told trustees he is concerned that the increase won’t be enough for UConn to maintain services. A third student, Corey Schmidt, a member of the board, agreed.

“I am not confident with the 2.5 percent increase,” Schmidt said, noting he also has seen class sizes increase. He said he has to drive to Hartford to take a required biology course because the class at the main campus in Storrs is full.

Peter Nicholls, provost of UConn, acknowledged class sizes have increased and availability of classes have diminished.

“There has been slippage over the last few years,” he said. “We are not going to be able to improve on that” because of the budget issues UConn faces.

UConn is facing a $45.7 million deficit in the upcoming year, which was heavily impacted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to cut state support from the general fund by $25 million a year.

“The fiscal issues for the university will remain pretty significant,” said Peter S. Drotch, chair of UConn’s Financial Affairs committee.

Board members voted almost unanimously to approve the 2.5 percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees, but warned that they may have to revisit the issue in June if lawmakers cut more then Malloy proposed or if hoped-for savings can’t be achieved. Schmidt was the only member to vote against the increase.

The tuition increase, the smallest increase since 2000, would bring tuition and fees up to $10,676 for in-state students attending the main campus in Storrs. Add room and board into the mix, and the cost is just over $21,000.

When deciding what tuition would be, trustees said they decided to adhere to Malloy’s request not to increase tuition beyond the rate of inflation, which is 2.5 percent.

Larry McHugh said that goal was realistic and thanked Malloy for not calling for a tuition freeze, which the previous administration had done.

“That would have not been in the best interest,” he said, adding this modest increase “will not compromise academic programs.”

Earlier in the week, Malloy said he agreed with the 2.5 percent increase proposed by UConn’s administration.

“I think it’s in line with what’s reasonable,” Malloy said on Monday after an event he attended with incoming UConn president Susan Herbst.

But the students who attended the board meeting Wednesday told the board they are not convinced it is reasonable.

“We’ve already seen class sizes double,” said Colon. “The cuts that we’ve seen over the last few years are relatively small compared to what we’re going to see in the future.”

Edward Marth, executive director of UConn’s professors’ union, agrees a 2.5 percent increase is too low.

“They are keeping tuition artificially low. It’s good social policy but a bad business move,” he said during an interview. “It makes no sense at all… It’s going to mean even larger classes” and cutting important services.