CSUS proposes smallest tuition increase since 2000

Facing significant cuts from the state, officials at Connecticut State University System said Tuesday they will not be able to freeze tuition for next year as previously announced–but the increase they are proposing is the smallest in 11 years.

“We hoped to not raise tuition at all, but I don’t see us being able to continue where we want to be without raising it,” said Richard Balducci, acting chairman of the Board of Trustees. “I wish we had that pot of gold laying around.”

CSUS proposes smallest tuition increase since 2000

The proposed 2.5 percent increase — which amounts to an average increase of $198 in tuition and fees for in-state students — will be considered by the CSUS’s Finance and Administration Committee Thursday and by the full Board of Trustees next week.

Balducci said the proposal “underscores our recognition of the financial pressures facing our students and their families, as well as the imperative to preserve the caliber of education we provide.”

The small proposed increase comes as a surprise to many, who have seen CSUS officials raise tuition and fees by as much as 9.6 percent in recent years while facing only minimal budget reductions from the state. A 6.3 percent tuition increase was approved for the current school year and the general fund appropriation from the state remained nearly the same.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is proposing cutting funding to CSUS by $17.6 million for the coming year — but he has also called on it and other higher education institutions to “demonstrate the creativity, the intelligence and the resolve” to live within the amount lawmakers provide without raising tuition more than inflation.

The CSUS announcement comes a week after the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved a 2.5 percent increase in tuition and fees. Malloy has proposed cutting funding to UConn by $25 million for the upcoming year. The community college system also decided to hold tuition increases to 2.5 percent, but that was before Malloy proposed cutting their grant by $16.6 million. Officials there have since said they may have to reconsider the tuition level.

The CSUS tuition increase is expected to generate $7.8 million in additional revenue for the 36,500-student, four-campus system, which faces a $22 million deficit for the next fiscal year.

The additional tuition revenue “doesn’t even cover half of the cuts we face” Balducci said. “We’ll just have to make major cuts in-house.”

He said he expects CSUS will have to shed staff, limit the number of courses available, and take several other measure to close the gap.

Officials at CSUS told legislators on the Appropriations Committee earlier this month they expect to close the remaining budget hole by cutting non-faculty personnel, centralizing financial aid and admissions and trimming the system office’s costs by 15 percent.

Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti said he believes the remaining deficit facing CSUS can be closed without sacrificing the education provided.

“I have confidence in their ability to deliver a good education with the resources that will be available to them,” he said.

CSUS was criticized as one of the “most expensive state university systems in the U.S.”, in a report released by legislative research staff for the Program Review and Investigations Committee. That report does rank CSUS in the middle for affordability when compared to neighboring states.

“CSU has gotten expensive,” Brenda Sisco, the previous budget director, also said in another report criticizing the university system.

But CSUS officials maintain they are an affordable option and say this small increase will help confirm that.

“Our tuition is in the mid-range and we have the charts and graphs to prove that,” said Bernard Kavaler, spokesman for CSUS. “The increasing number of students applying reflects that we remain affordable and provide a high-caliber option.”

Meotti said the small increase will also help CSUS.

“I suspect 2.5 percent will be at the low end of the [tuition] increases other state” colleges and universities face, he said.