Regents recommend 3.8 percent hike in tuition, fees for CSU system

The Board of Regents for Higher Education is recommending a 3.8 percent increase in tuition and fees at the four Connecticut State Universities and 3.1 percent at the 12 community colleges for the upcoming school year.

This recommendation will be voted on Thursday by the full board, just two days after the proposal was released. A spokeswoman for the regents was unable to say whether a public hearing was ever held on the proposal.

The increase means in-state CSU students living on campus will need to pay $19,119, or $676 more next school year. Tuition for the community colleges will jump $108.

This proposal comes one year after the institutions saw the lowest tuition and fee increases in years and drastic cuts in state funding.

The increase does not require legislative approval. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last year asked the system not to increase tuition more than inflation when substantially cutting their budget, a goal they met. When the University of Connecticut, which is not part of the CSU system, voted to increase tuition faster than inflation — or about 25 percent for next four school years — to hire more 290 more faculty, Malloy’s office did not come out in opposition.

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, called the increase a “fairly modest” one, adding their promising to spend that money on new faculty is a “great sign”.

Mike Meotti, executive vice president for the regents, said the 100,000-student system needs the tuition increase for the same reason. The share of full-time faculty at CSUS, the community colleges and the state’s online college has dropped nearly 10 percent over the past eight years, reports the Board of Regents.

“This recommended increase will allow our state colleges and universities to hire additional faculty and stay competitive among their peer schools, without overburdening their students,” he wrote in an email statement.

The small proposed increase may come as a surprise to many, who have seen Connecticut State University tuition and fees raise 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 in for the 2009-10 current school year and the general fund appropriation from the state remained nearly the same.

The Board of Regents’ constituent units took a significant fiscal hit this year after Malloy and the legislature merged them into one entity. The Connecticut State University and Community-Technical College systems as well as Charter Oak State College spent a combined $323.9 million last fiscal year. The new Board of Regents was allocated $315.7 million to cover those three entities plus their new, shared administrative office.

But the Malloy administration is withholding another $21.8 million from that total, bringing overall funding down to just under $294 million — a drop of 9.2 percent from last year’s spending.

The $21.8 million is the new merged system’s share of a $700 million savings target that must be achieved across state government from a union concessions deal that froze wages for two years, changed retirement and health benefits and ordered other cutbacks. The union deal is particularly controversial among Republican lawmakers, who say some aspects of it haven’t saved as much as promised, and that the Democratic governor is assigning extra budget cuts to some agencies to compensate.

For example, three labor-management panels were supposed to identify various efficiencies across state government to save $170 million this year alone. But two of the three panels hadn’t even met until the fiscal year already was nearly four months old. Rather than wait, the administration drew up its own blueprint in October, assigning each agency a share — regardless of whether these panels recommend any efficiency strategies.

The tuition and fee increases is expected to bring in an additional $12.8 million in revenue.

The CSU system is composed of Central Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State, Southern Connecticut State and Eastern Connecticut State.