2 percent tuition increase hinges on big growth in enrollment

The governing board for the state’s largest public college system voted Thursday to increase tuition by 2 percent next school year — warning that the modest increase relies on several things.

“It should be clear, our recommendation today hinges very significantly on final approval of the governor’s proposal to offset tuition for [next school year],” Matt Fleury, chairman of the system’s Finance Committee, told the Board of Regents. It also hinges on increasing enrollment by 7,000 students next school year, he said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking the legislature to provide $24.2 million to the Regents system — which runs the state’s dozen community colleges, four bachelor’s degree-granting universities and online college — for “operations and tuition support.”

The college system faces a $42.1 million deficit for the coming school year.

The plan to fill the remaining shortfall depends on an 8 percent boost in student enrollment. To lure additional students to enroll, the governor’s “Go Back to Get Ahead” proposal would provide one free course for students who enroll in other courses, which would in turn provide additional tuition revenue for the system.

“It’s not going to be easy to grow by 7,000 students,” regents board member Merle Harris said during the meeting.

Gregory Gray, the system’s president, said he will know by Sept. 1 if the enrollment growth — and accompanying growth in revenue — were achieved. The state colleges have never achieved the enrollment increases that have been budgeted for in this plan.

Asked after the meeting if he would look to a midyear tuition hike on top of the 2 percent increase approved Thursday to cover any shortfall, Gray said that would be the very last option.

“Our intent is not to do that … I would never dismiss that,” he said.

While thanking the board for approving such a small increase, Gateway Community College student Eugene Bell said affordability remains a concern for students.

“How do you expect us to pay an additional $180 when we can’t afford what it is now?” asked Bell, a member of the system’s Student Advisory Council.

“I hope they are not discouraged by this 2 percent increase,” added Sarah Greco, the student member of the Board of Regents.

Gray said he is doing everything to keep costs down, but the system has to balance its budget.

“I felt badly we had to come up 2 percent,” he said.

See the approved tuition rates by schools here.

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