The University of Connecticut is among the colleges and universities offering options to some companies' employees. Sean Flynn / UConn Photo

Many UConn students are set to pay more than $600 extra in fees per year beginning in July, one of a few adjustments the state university’s Board of Trustees made to student payment programs Wednesday.

The increases were put in place in part to combat rising costs of dining and materials, which have become more expensive because of supply-chain issues during the pandemic.

Mandatory fees at Storrs are set to rise by $268 in July, and housing and dining fees will increase by $364. Regional mandatory fees are set to increase by $8. The fees cover a range of services including health and wellness, athletics, marching band and career development services. 

The full cost of attendance for an in-state student living on campus will be $33,056.

“While we want to maintain our downward pressure on tuition and fees for the students’ sake, costs continue to increase,” Lloyd Blanchard, UConn’s interim vice president for finance and chief financial officer, said to trustees on Wednesday. “And so it is time to increase some of these fees, as the vice chair said, to keep up with cost.”

He mentioned the recent SEBAC negotiations that resulted in raises and bonuses for state employees as one of those costs.

Some fees such as the technology fee and infrastructure maintenance, which fall under the mandatory fee category, haven’t risen since 2014. And university-supported financial aid has increased by 28% since fiscal year 2019, according to a presentation given to the board on Wednesday. 

“The university stretches really far, as far as we can, in accommodating financial need among those students that have the greatest amount of need,” said Nathan Fuerst, vice president for enrollment planning and management during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Over the past five years, the university’s fee-funded expenses have increased by 18%, and student fees have increased by 3.8%, according to a news release. The changes don’t affect UConn’s five-year tuition plan for fiscal years 2021 through 2025, put in place in 2019.

“Obviously nobody likes to pay more for their tuition,” said Mason Holland, UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government president. “We need to be able to understand it as an equity issue for students.”

For some students, Holland said, a few hundred extra dollars in fees could make a college degree inaccessible. Federal data show that average tuition and fee costs at public four-year universities were about 13% higher for the 2019-20 school year than they were for the 2010-11 school year.

But other changes to the school’s payment programs may help combat the rising costs.

One of the adjustments is an optional flat fee for books. The program is called the Barnes & Noble First-Day Complete Program.

The fee will be $285 per semester beginning in spring 2023. Students can opt into the program.

Holland said the administration gathered student input about the plan and said it will be of particular help to science, technology, engineering and math students, many of whom pay hundreds per semester for textbooks.

“What we wanted to figure out was how do we create a medium for students to be able to get the books they need, but keep it affordable,” Holland said. “I’m glad it was able to happen but also to be sure students could opt in if they wanted to.”

The student government will help tell students about the program, Holland said.

The university is also switching its Education Abroad program from a fee-based payment system to a tuition-based program, meaning students can use their scholarships and financial aid dollars toward study abroad.

“We want all of our students, regardless of ability to pay, to be able to participate in such programs,” said Blanchard, according to a news release. “It’s very much in keeping with our mission at UConn to provide a cutting-edge education and opportunities for all of our students regardless of their financial circumstances.”

University officials held two town halls regarding the changes ahead of the board vote.

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Ginny MonkHousing and Children's Issues Reporter

Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter a Report for America corps member. She covers a range of topics, from education and child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021 and covered housing for Hearst Connecticut Media.