UConn quietly boosts tuition $40 more

The University of Connecticut has quietly implemented an additional tuition increase over and above the 25.6 percent increase going into effect.

A spokeswoman at the University of Connecticut says the additional $40 increase for fiscal 2014 was tucked into the fiscal 2013 budget approved last June and is in addition to the $2,112, four-year increase put in place 14 months ago.

When the Board of Trustees approved the majority of the increase in December 2011, the trustees built in an asterisk to the tuition schedule. It provided that, in the event state funding decreases, tuition could be increased another 2.1 percent overall without another vote by the college’s governing board.

“If the State appropriation decreases or the current fiscal climate worsens, the University may revisit the approved tuition increase amounts,” an accompanying board resolution from 2011 reads.

UConn officials have repeatedly insisted that they have not invoked the asterisk provision. “The budget has not been set yet. No decisions have been made on that,” spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said during an interview last month.

The university spokeswoman said the $40 tuition increase was included in a presentation made to the board in late June of 2012. But it is not mentioned in the budget documents or minutes from that session.

In any event, this increase is the third time the cost to attend UConn has gone up since the board adopted the four-year plan in 2011, and its adoption was a departure from normal routine. Tuition rates are typically set by the board during the January or February meeting and public hearings are held to allow for public and student feedback.

And the increases may not end there.

The board still plans to revist student fees each year. On Wednesday, the board approved increasing fees by $116 for next school year. The board’s two student trustees did not vote in favor of the majority of the increases.

The budget documents presented at Wednesday’s meeting made no mention of the additional tuition increase for the upcoming school year. The only mention of tuition came from Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh.

“We are not fooling around with that line item. That number is locked,” he said.

Tuition and fee rates later provided to reporters reflected an increase from the original four-year schedule. Only after the Mirror requested details on when the increase was approved did officials explain the process that took place in June.

“The trustees confirmed through their [Dec. 2011] vote that the rate would be one or the other, depending on the state funding level that was still months away from being known. This was discussed in open session in the presence of the media and other guests,” Reitz wrote in an email.

UConn President Susan Herbst nevertheless Wednesday expressed her frustration and disappointment at the way the fee increase to students were presented to trustees. She conceded it created potential for confusion as to what the board was approving.

Whether it was invoked or not, the implications of the expanded flexibility provided to administrators by the asterisk provision worries the House chairwoman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee.

“That’s not the process that I would recommend for tuition or fee increases,” said Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury. “The statutes say tuition increases need board approval.”