UConn President Tom Katsouleas presents a report at UConn board meeting in 2019. From left, trustees Shari Cantor, Andy Bessette, Katsouleas, and Trustee Chairman Dan Toscano. Kathleen Megan / CT Mirror
Nicole Andrade, a UConn junior, said the tuition increase will be difficult for her family to absorb. She is already paying off school loans, she said, and her family makes too much money to be eligible for financial aid. Kathleen Megan / CT Mirror

UConn students will pay an extra $608 next year in tuition — a  4.2 % increase — under a five-year schedule of increases approved unanimously Wednesday by the university’s board of trustees.

Under the plan, tuition for in-state students will increase from $13,798 this year to $17,012 in the fall of 2024 — an increase of 23.3%.

UConn President Tom Katsouleas said after the meeting, “The concern is for education to be as affordable as possible and still maintain quality.

“I think students overall don’t want quality to go down and they understand that there is inflation and other factors that drive that up and the choice is to raise tuition as modestly as we can or to cut quality.”

Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer, told the trustees that this is a “dramatic change” from the significantly higher rate of increases that occurred over the last four-year period, when tuition increased by $700 to $950 each year, with an overall percentage increase of 31%.

Jordan said after the meeting that the purpose of the increase is “to protect the university’s academic quality and to make sure that our students get the courses they need to graduate on time in the face of increasing cost pressure.

“The truth is this is the lowest increase we’ve had in a number of years,” Jordan said. “We’re doing our best to keep our tuition increases as low as possible.”

Nicole Andrade, a junior from Massachusetts, said the increase will pose a greater financial burden for her.

“I’m on an academic scholarship,” Andrade said. “My family makes enough money where I don’t get financial aid, but it’s enough that, like, we’re struggling. It’s that line.”

She said she wants to go on to get her doctorate and is already getting charged interest on one of her loans.

Andrade  noted that it doesn’t help that students are already paying an additional fee of $500 to cover the cost of the new recreation center at the university.

If an increase is unavoidable, Andrade said she’d like to see funding go toward mental health and health services on campus, which she said need to be expanded to meet student needs.

UConn President Tom Katsouleas presents his report at UConn boar meeting. From left, trustees Shari Cantor, Andy Bessette, Katsouleas, and Trustee Chairman Dan Toscano. Kathleen Megan / CT Mirror

Mika Stetson, a first-year student from New Milford, said she expects higher tuition will mean bigger loans for her as well.

“As a student I don’t support  tuition increases because I have a significant problem with the college debt in our country,” Stetson said, “and the amount of interest students are forced to pay. Obviously, adding onto tuition prices isn’t going to help with that.”

“In addition to the hundreds of dollars we are forced to pay for a new recreation center no one really asked for, I think that’s a little bit wrong.”

Mika Stetson, a UConn freshman from New Milford Kathleen Megan / CT Mirror

Katsouleas said the tuition plan “really doesn’t cover our increase in expenses.”

He said the university is attempting to hold itself to the national higher education price index, which he said is not Connecticut’s price index.

“Costs are higher in Connecticut than they are nationally but we’re doing this in order to reinforce the social contract and the commitment we have to providing high quality education,” he said. “It’s going to require our deans and other leaders to reprioritize the resources and also look for them to be creative about the generation of new resources through revenue generating programs such as growth in master’s degree programs … and also philanthropy.”

The new tuition plan comes less than two months after Katsouleas announced a new scholarship program that will enable incoming students whose families have an income of $50,000 or less to attend UConn tuition-free starting in the fall of 2020.

The university said the new program, called the Connecticut Commitment, will not drive up costs for other students and that the tuition plan would be the same even if the financial aid program had not been enacted.

Katsouleas said fundraising for the Connecticut Commitment has been going well and the university hopes to soon announce a donation that is “quite large.”

But some officials have questioned whether it would be better off to channel university resources toward reducing costs, such as the university’s expenditure on the state’s unfunded pension liability.

Katsouleas said that while the Connecticut Commitment creates enthusiasm among donors, he is certain that trying to raise money to address the increased fringe benefit costs would not.

“You just won’t raise any that way,” Katsouleas said.

In the first year of the new five-year plan, tuition will increase by $608 for all students. In the following years, it increases  by $625 in 2021, $642 in 2022, $660 in 2023, and by $679 in 2024.

In-state tuition is currently $13,798, while out-of-state tuition is $36,466.

While the dollar increase for out-of-state students will be the same as it is for in-state students, the percentage will be much smaller — 11.3% over the next five-year period — because their tuition is already much higher.

The cost of attending UConn also includes room and board, in addition to tuition, for most students. The full cost to attend the UConn Storrs campus in 2020-21 will be $31,092 for in-state students and $53,760 for out-of-state students if state aid remains level.

Those figures include the new tuition rate, along with mandatory fees and average room and board charges. Those costs are currently set at $3,428 in fees and $13,258 for average room and board, but these could change. The charges for room and board for the 2020-2021 school year will be determined in the spring of 2020.

Jordan said that, as required by state statute, the amount of money allocated to support financial aid will increase accordingly each year when tuition rates change.

When institutionally-funded aid is factored in, the average in-state UConn student pays about $9,200 in annual tuition, the university said, with those who receive federal Pell Grants paying less.

The university provided a breakdown of the $608 tuition increase for next fall, saying that $100 covers cost increases, including personnel expenditures, while $389 accounts for inflationary increases. In addition, $119 was added to offset the increased fringe benefit costs that UConn is paying as part of the state’s plan to catch up with unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liabilities.

University officials noted that, as with UConn’s previous multi-year tuition plans, the board could be asked to revisit rates if there is a significant drop in state aid or a significant increase in costs.

Kathleen Megan wrote for more than three decades for the Hartford Courant, covering education in recent years and winning many regional and national awards. She is now covering education and child welfare issues for the Mirror.

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9 Comments

  1. Before you pop the champagne, note that the 4.3% annualized increases are still more than twice the inflation rate. As with many other things here in Connecticut, the cost of education is beginning to get out of reach for the middle class. There is a limit to how much taxpayers in this state can take and we’re beginning to see it with the tolls proposals.

  2. Where is Governor Lamont? UConn has been an out of control money pit since Susan Herbst showed up and it is clear the new leadership plans to continue to spend money like a drunk sailor. A $500 year fee for a recreation center? That must be a hell of a gym. Planet Fitness is offering a $10/month plan.

    Fire half of the Administrators and cut salaries of those remaining by 30%. Review every position annually to see if it can be eliminated. Replace the entire Board of Trustees. Fire Katsouleas. Shut down the athletic department and its $40 million annual loss. Require faculty who are purely research and development to show how their work can be monetized or cut their budget.

    The primary purpose of a PUBLIC university is to provide an AFFORDABLE education to as many state residents as possible. UConn has lost its way – like the state itself.

    1. Don’t forget about the pensions. 40% of the top 100 state retirees are former UConn professors and administrators, each collecting more than $150,000 per year, for life. In fact, one of the highest paid is a former UConn business professor, who will receive $343,828 this year.
      There’s no wonder why the cost increases are out of control.
      Source: “Six-figure State Pensions Spark Debate”, Connecticut Post; October 30, 2019

  3. This is a funny article. All these UConn students will continue to vote Democrat while the Democrats and their partners in the Unions will demand that their Unfunded pensions will be honored, driving up tuition. It will interesting to see how Republicans are responsible.

    Perhaps a Economics 101 would help. If my child went to UConn, I would tell my child that they can vote for anyone they want. However If they voted Democrat, I would reduce my support by the amount my taxes increase.

  4. It will be beneficial to know the “Cost of Free Tuition for Extended Family of UCONN Employees”. This would clarify if this tuition increase in funding a Special Interest Population within the university system. Not trying to penalize anyone, just looking for fairness and equality.

  5. I have 2 kids about to go to college in the next 5 years. Won’t even allow them to consider a college in this state. It’s sad. They were raised here and now they have no choice but to leave. This state is not sustainable any more. Everything is coming up like 2008 again around here. Tolls will just top it off. I keep drilling in my kids heads that they have leave this place for there betterment

  6. With college enrollments declining in CT and major underfunding of public schools in our large cities – Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford – isn’t it time to shift resources from our highly paid State colleges/university ? Per capita incomes in those 3 depressed cites are just $20,000 or one half the CT average. Why aren’t their needs being met in a State that has over a dozen well recognized colleges and universities.

    According to UCONN Today 2.17.19 UCONN’s budget is $2.7 billion ($1.46 for Stores, rest for Health Ct.) out of a CT Budget total of about $20 billion. Is funding State colleges more important than adequately funding public schools in our depressed cities and towns ? Ask their parents.

  7. The author mentions that fundraising for the unfunded liabilities is a non-starter. Perhaps it would be possible to fundraise for the unfunded liability problem provided the inputs to perpetuating the problem were done away with for good, for example if every employee was put on a 401(k)-style plan and was paid competitive, pay-as-you-go wages like the private sector. This is how businesses solve their problems when they need to and governments never seem to be able to.

  8. The author mentions that fundraising for the unfunded liabilities is a non-starter. Perhaps it would be possible to fundraise for the unfunded liability problem provided the inputs to perpetuating the problem were done away with for good, for example if every employee was put on a 401(k)-style plan and was paid competitive, pay-as-you-go wages like the private sector. This is how businesses solve their problems when they need to and governments never seem to be able to.

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