The University of Connecticut is raising student fees by $116 next fall, when a previously approved tuition increase is to take effect: State residents will pay $574 more in tuition and fees, a 5.1 percent increase. For students living on campus, the cost will jump $954.
The increase brings the price for Connecticut residents to attend UConn to $11,936 a year. For in-state students living on campus the cost is $23,410 a year.
College officials say the additional costs to students are necessary to help offset reductions in state support and the cost of hiring additional faculty, but student members on UConn’s board of trustees aren’t convinced.
One of the student members voted against the majority of the fee increase Tuesday, while the other abstained.
“I am very concerned,” said Brien T. Buckman, a senior from Coventry. “It should not be passed on to students.”
Students are being asked to pay $150 a year to pay for technology upgrades for things like wireless Internet and software for student and campus computers. Buckman said these costs should be funded by the state through its construction budget, not tuition.
State funding for the state’s public colleges has dropped by 14 percent over the past two fiscal years, or a total of nearly $100 million. The state has also reduced funding to cover some faculty and staff health and retirement benefits by $40 million during that time.
Stephen Petkis, UConn’s student body president, told the board there is no excuse for the amount the state has cut funding and dismissed the governor’s “shared sacrifice” budget mantra when dealing with deficits.
“Shared sacrifice has become sort of a dirty word around here after what it has come to mean,” said Petkis, a senior from South Windsor.
Buckman urged the board to reject the increased fee that goes to support the school’s student newspaper, the Daily Campus.
Students, he said, voted against raising the fee to $20 a year.
“I see no reason why we should be overriding the wishes of the students,” he said.
UConn President Susan Herbst told reporters after the meeting that while there may be concerns among students with the technology and newspaper fee, they are important and necessary.
Overall costs are $10 more than students last year were told to expect to pay following the trustees’ approval of a four-year, 24 percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees.
“We are not fooling around with that line item. That number is locked,” Board Chairman Larry McHugh said before the vote.
The board did approve some other new or increased fees some students will be expected to pay next year. For example, the thousands of students that take courses online will have to pay a $20 fee per credit. Students who enroll in the Fine Arts and Digital Media courses will have to pay $90 a year. Nursing school and law school fees will also increase on top of the $116 all students will pay.
Asked if all these individual fee increases are a way of getting around having to calculate the increase into the 5.1 percent increase, Herbst said no.
“There are some places that do do that as a sneaky back- door process,” she said, adding this increase is reasonable. “We feel we are still very competitive.”
The fiscal stability of UConn also relies on plans to drastically expand enrollment — and tuition dollars that come with those new students — Herbst said.
“That takes a huge amount of pressure off of us even with the cuts in [state funding] or any future cuts. I mean we will really be able to keep tuition down… keep it depressed for the long term,” she said.
The state’s other public college system is also expected to adopt a 5.1 percent increase in March. However, these increases may need to be revisted after the legislature finalizes the state budget and determines what level of support it will provide to higher education.
Follow Jacqueline Rabe Thomas on Twitter @jacquelinerabe