CSCU officials recommend students pay 4.8 to 5.3 percent more

Officials of the state’s largest public college system have recommended to its governing board that community college students be charged between 4.8 and 5.3 percent more in tuition and fees next school year.

They also recommend charging students attending the four regional Connecticut State Universities 4.8 percent more.

The increases — between $186 and $456 more for full-time students — are expected to generate nearly $22 million in additional revenue for the 16-campus college system.

The recommendations are expected to be considered by the Board of Regents finance committee Thursday and by the full board next week.

The increases will only partially close the system’s projected $48.6 million budget shortfall, which is 4 percent less than what system leaders said is needed to maintain existing programs and staffing levels.

Officials said that $5.3 million will come from one-time revenues and the remaining $22 million will have to come from cuts.

Those cuts include employing fewer staff by implementing a hiring freeze, program reductions, and cutting administrative costs.

“Balancing this budget will require compromises and sacrifices from all of us,” reads the tuition proposal released Monday evening.

The tuition plan assumes several things that may not add up, which could exacerbate the school’s budget deficit.

The plan assumes the colleges and universities will enroll at least the same number of students next school year even though enrollment at the public colleges has been declining  and the pool of traditional college-age students in Connecticut is shrinking. If enrollment shrinks by 2 percent — as it did this school year — that could cost the college system $8 million.

The projection also doesn’t factor in the cost of any faculty and staff who switch from a 401k-type retirement plan to the state’s pension plan, a move that costs the college system significantly more. This year 288 employees switched to the pension system, which required the university system to spend nearly $9 million more.

College employees can switch to the state’s pension retirement system because of a state arbitrator’s ruling five years ago on union complaints that employees were intimidated into not choosing the pension option and were given no meaningful explanation of the differences in the plans.

“It could be at a substantial cost to CSCU,” the plan reads. “These are among the significant fiscal concerns facing our system as we move forward with balancing our budget.”

If these assumptions don’t play out, the college system does not plan to turn to further mid-year tuition increases.

“Given the risk in the model and should the $48.6 million grow as a result, we propose to continue with expense reductions to close that gap,” the plan reads.

The tuition increases also assume that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s proposed $20.6 million cut in state funding to the CSCU system for the next fiscal year is adopted by the legislature.