Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, one of the four universities in the Board of Regents system. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org
Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. June 10, 2020. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org

The governing body of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, which includes four state universities, 12 community colleges and Charter Oak State College, voted Thursday to impose a systemwide freeze on tuition for the 2021-22 academic year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Connecticut students particularly hard,” CSCU Interim President Dr. Jane Gates said in a statement. “The Board of Regents, recognizing that we cannot ask our students and their families to shoulder a greater share of the burden during these difficult times, made the wise but difficult decision to freeze tuition and most fees for the upcoming academic year. The institutions within the Connecticut State College and University system are the most affordable, accessible options to get a great education – and we intend to keep it that way.”

The plan would pause tuition at the current 2020-21 academic year rates, which set full-time, annual in-state tuition at $3,984 for students attending community colleges. In addition to the tuition freeze, some campuses are planning to reduce, pause or eliminate certain mandatory fees.

Eastern and Southern Connecticut state universities will not be making any changes to mandatory fees. Central Connecticut State University eliminated all online fees due to the pandemic, and Western Connecticut State University is reducing online course fees from $50 per course to $50 per semester.

During Thursday’s regents meeting, Richard Balducci, chairman of the board’s finance committee, said universities making these adjustments to online instruction is big since “many of the courses are being offered that way.”

For the community colleges, services and extension fees will also remain at the 2020-21 levels. There is also a proposal to adjust late drop fees to $50 per course. This is a new fee adopted by the board in December 2020 that was originally supposed to be $75 per course and capped at $200 per term.

Under the plan, the cost of U-PASS, a discounted public transportation ride program for students at participating colleges and universities, will increase from $20 to $40 per semester in order to meet requirements from the state Department of Transportation to continue the program, according to Balducci.

“Overall, this package will preserve our affordability and our competitive position as the most affordable options for Connecticut students to pursue a degree or certificate,” Balducci told the board Thursday. “It’s especially important now given the profound disruption to our students’ lives that the pandemic has brought on.”

Planning for the fall

Gates also told the board Thursday that she is confident that campuses will continue to maintain healthy and safe environments and said the system is ready to “begin planning full operations this fall.”

“By increasing the staffing of departments and offices by the late spring, early summer, we can begin to provide more on-ground services, classes and better serve our students,” Gates said. “Office hours and in-person meetings can also begin to take place on campus. Our campuses have demonstrated that they are safe and low-risk places to work and learn.”

There will be more specific information released soon about what the full operation plan will look like at each institution, said a CSCU spokesperson.

The University of Connecticut also announced this week its plans for more in-person classes this coming fall.

In a letter sent out to UConn students and employees on Tuesday, university officials said the current plan is to have residence halls at 90% capacity in the fall, which will depend on public health circumstances at the beginning of the semester. Additionally, UConn is encouraging students to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall and plans to vaccinate those who aren’t, with priority given to residential students.

Student affairs will be sending out more information to students about residential capacity on Tuesday, and the university will present a formal fall re-entry plan the week of May 24.

“Though there are of course unknowns and uncertainties that remain, there are signs that we are beginning to emerge from this pandemic,” UConn President Tom Katsouleas wrote in a joint letter with Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Carl Lejuez and Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President for Administration Scott Jordan. “Given the accelerating pace of vaccinations, widening eligibility and positive trends with respect to prevalence and infection, this spring and summer will be a crucial time to hopefully turn the tide for good when it comes to COVID.”

Adria was CT Mirror's Education and Community Reporter. She grew up in Oakland, graduated from Sacramento State where she was co-news editor of the student newspaper, and worked as a part-time reporter at CalMatters. Most recently Adria interned at The Marshall Project, a national nonprofit news organization that reports on criminal justice issues. Adria was one of CT Mirror’s Report For America Corps Members.

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