UConn raises tuition, promises major budget cuts

UConn President Susan Herbst

CT Mirror file photo

UConn President Susan Herbst

It just became more expensive to attend the University of Connecticut: By 2019, tuition will be $3,275 more than this year.

The increases approved Wednesday mean undergraduate students from Connecticut will have to pay $11,224 in tuition next year, a 6.7 percent increase.

But the 31 percent four-year tuition increase adopted by the system’s governing board Wednesday probably will not end there for students at the public university. The mandatory fees students must also pay are typically raised every spring by about $100.

The higher price tag will not bring increased services for students because university leaders are preparing to make major cuts to its budget for the upcoming fiscal year to help close a $40.2 million deficit.

“The reality is that we need to increase tuition and cut costs simultaneously in order to generate the resources needed to protect academic quality and student outcomes. In fact, most of the [budget] gap next year will be closed through cost-cutting,” UConn President Susan Herbst told the school’s Board of Trustees before they adopted the four-year tuition hike. Both students on the board voted against the increase.

“We must bear this in mind: No university cuts its way to success. No university strengthens academics by slashing academic budgets. No university supports positive student outcomes by having fewer faculty, bigger classes, or reduced financial aid. That is what we are seeking to avoid,” Herbst said.

University officials report the tuition hikes for graduate and undergraduate students will close $14 million of the system’s $40.2 million gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Officials attribute this gap – which equates to a 3 percent structural deficit if existing programs and staffing levels were continued – to their rapidly increasing budget and state funding that has not kept pace.

The board will decide in the spring where to cut to close the remaining gap, but several areas were pointed to as likely targets.

“Cost-cutting will likely include hiring restrictions, workforce reductions, position eliminations, creating greater efficiencies, and program consolidations or closures,” reads the tuition plan adopted by the board.

UConn reports that that the projection for next year’s shortfall assumes it will cost the system $14.1 million more to provide its employees health and pension benefits. Another $15.3 million is based on “union increases.” UConn is currently in contract negotiations with its unions. The university also assumes it will get an additional $5.8 million in state funding, as provided in the adopted two-year state budget, but estimated mid-year cuts from the state of $11.5 million next year will offset that increase.

During the meeting Wednesday, Student Trustee David Rifkin wanted assurances that the tuition would not be increasing further if state funding drops. When state legislators convene for their regular session in February, they will face a large state budget deficit that must be closed. Higher education is typically targeted for closing state budget deficits.

UConn Budget Chief Scott Jordan said, “It is our commitment to stick to this plan,” but the board has reserved the right to revisit tuition levels if “dramatic” cuts are made to the university.

The increases approved Wednesday mean undergraduate students from other states will have to pay $33,016 next year. Mandatory fees – which currently stand at $2,842 – will be determined this spring.

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