New Britain — Central Connecticut State University student Cameron Sutphion is mindful of the cost of college, so he saves money where he can.
He started off his college career at a more affordable community college, lives with his parents in Enfield and commutes to school to avoid having to take out student loans for the price of living on campus.
A sophomore education major, Sutphion is a full-time student and part-time singer, playing gigs at local bars, putting the money he earns toward textbooks and gas. He sings and plays the guitar solo, because the money is too short if he has to split the pay with other band members.
“The reason I commute is because I couldn’t afford tuition, books and housing without going into debt,” Sutphion said. “Tuition is high enough.”
At Central, current tuition for an in-state undergraduate student is $4,160 per semester and $9,676 for an out-of-state undergraduate student. That doesn’t include the cost of campus housing.
And with the system’s governing board set to vote this month on increasing the price another 5.1 percent, students and professors gathered Monday at CCSU in New Britain to protest.
If the proposal is accepted, the average increase among the four state universities would be $434 in tuition and fees and $778 for campus housing. For Central students specifically, the increase would mean $385 for tuition and fees and $835 more for students living on campus.
Sutphion was one of about 200 students and professors who came out to express their anger at the proposal and drop in state funding Monday afternoon.
Rallying in Central’s student center circle, students held up signs declaring, “Erase student debt,” and “What about tomorrow,” as they chanted “No cuts, no hikes!”
“One thing that I want to start with is UConn,” said Eric Bergenn, president of CCSU’s Student Government Association. “UConn is great and I personally support any investment in UConn. However I also support an investment here at CCSU and at Western Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, our state community colleges and across the street at (the online) Charter Oak State College.
“Today we’re calling on the state to invest in us.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed an increase in state support to UConn, raising funding from current levels by $137 million over the next 10 years. The new money would cover the cost of new faculty and other staff.
There are no plans to increase state support at the other public higher education institutions.
State funding for these 17 institutions has declined 15.2 percent ($49.4 million) over the past two school years, while tuition increased by 7 percent.
The Obama administration’s new “College Scorecard” reports that the typical undergraduate student at Central who need loans typically borrows $15,750 in federal funds. To repay these loans, it entails approximately $181 per month, over 10 years. One in 20 students will default on those loans during their first three years of leaving college.
“Despite what the governor may want, we can change that outcome if we act now and if we act together,” said Bobby Berriauot, a senator on Central’s Student Government Association, speaking to the crowd.
A spokeswoman for the 100,000-student system said the proposed increase is not an easy choice facing the Board of Regents.
“The Regents are mindful that any increase in tuition and fees — regardless of the amount — is difficult for our students to absorb in these tough fiscal times. There are no easy choices, and the Regents continue to look for smart cost-savings wherever possible. There are certain fixed costs,” Colleen Flanagan Johnson wrote in an email. “We respect the right of students to voice their opinions about this proposal… as it underscores the importance of a healthy, robust dialogue on higher education campuses across our state.”
Freshman tourism and hospitality major Art Keung said he attended the rally to defend his right to receive an education. If the price to attend college continues to rise, he would consider moving out of the country for school, he said.
“I give a damn about my education, I want to be able to have a career, I want to be able to grow up with a family and be able to support them with the things I learn now,” Keung said.
Professors, too, at Central have been affected by the drop in state support, while also witnessing the harmful effects high tuition prices have on their students.
“I have students all the time working 40 hours a week, so what time do they have to study and really think? And then when they get out [of college] they have to pay those loans back, $20(,000) to $30,000 in debt, all the time,” said Briann Greenfield, associate professor of Central’s public history program.
“That means no taking an internship, it means nothing about going into the career you want, it means taking whatever job you can get and sticking with it. That’s not what I want for my students, that’s not why I do this work.”
The rally at Central was one of three this week against the Board of Regents’ tuition hike proposal. Rallies are scheduled to take place Wednesdsay at Southern and Western Connecticut State Universities.
The proposal is slated for consideration by the Finance Committee of the Board of Regents Thursday, with the full Board of Regents considering it at its March 21 meeting.
On the same day, Connecticut State University students and professors will rally again against the proposal outside the college system’s central office in Hartford.