STORRS-A town hall-style meeting was held at the University Connecticut Tuesday allowing students to ask school officials questions about tuition increases and potential budget cuts facing the school as the state grapples with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.
The two hour question and answer session had many students questioning their loyalty to the university. Students wondered if they made the right decision to attend UConn because of the possible tuition hikes in their future.
According to the estimates given by the panel, if tuition goes up 6 percent, an in-state student would have to pay $216 more per semester. An 8.67 percent increase would mean $540 per semester, and a 13.67 percent increase calls for a $540 increase per semester. These amounts are only what in-state students could face. Those out of state students could find themselves paying over a $1,000 per semester if tuition gets raised 13.67 percent. These estimates also don’t include any additional raises that could be tacked on for housing, meal plans or increase payments for other programs.
“It’s a dangerous line. I’m a junior, so I’m obviously going to stay for my last year. But if I was a freshman I’d probably transfer to UMass.” Patricia Collins, an out-of-state student said. “By losing out of state students you’re going to lose a lot of money.”
Barry Feldman, vice president and chief operating officer at the university, and Lisa Troyer, the president’s chief of staff, agreed with Collins’ statements.
Tuition decisions will be decided at the March 10 board of trustees meeting. Students are allowed to attend the event, but because the meeting falls on a date when UConn has its spring break, many students won’t be around.
One student asked the meeting time to be changed so students could voice their concerns, but such a change will not occur, officials said.
Those students present on Tuesday were interested in what programs could potentially be cut and if any majors would no longer be offered. The panel did not have answers to a lot of these questions. Currently UConn offers 100 undergraduate majors but whether or not some of these majors will still exist when students come back for the Fall is up in the air.
The potential 80 to 100 layoffs that the university could face if an 8.67 percent tuition increase is enforced are just numbers for now, Troyer said. The fact that that there are no immediate answers to students’ questions have them concerned.
Some don’t know whether they will be able to afford the university and with additional cuts being made to financial aid, this puts another strain on students and their parents’ wallets.
John Saddlemire vice-president for student affairs, said everything is on the table, in regards to program shortages and cuts.
“There will be very little wiggle room, and you begin to reduce certain things, you reduce hours of service, consider fewer Late Night activities.” Saddlemire said. “You begin to eat and erode at the quality of life.”
One student said she could do without the UConn Late Nights, but would prefer not to see cuts made to library or gym hours. Late Night is an event that occurs on various weekends through out the semester that offers students an alternative to drinking. Students can participate in a variety of events including karaoke and crafts and can go home with free gifts and prizes.
The decisions on program cuts and what jobs will be eliminated will not be decided until the summer, Feldman said.
“We won’t know until the summer and we see how the budget shapes out,” Feldman said.
At this point the university will know how much money it will receive from the state and how to allocate its funds. Until that time UConn won’t know exactly what jobs and how many jobs will have to be cut. Tuition will be the only factor decided on by the time the students leave for summer vacation.
Several students asked whether the university could develop a website describing the types of cuts that could be made, the break down of tuition cuts and where exactly their money is going. At the end of the meeting students said they didn’t feel like they were getting enough transparency from the panel.
“We wish it was straight forward and simple. But there’s still two-thirds of the budget that needs to get sorted out. We may not be able to be transparent until the budget from the governor gets passed,” Feldman said. “We don’t have enough information to put on the web. We don’t know how the budget will get resolved. We want to be transparent but don’t have the information.”
Troyer and Feldman both said they’re not in the business of hiding in the backroom. Both executives want to let the students know what is going on and be able to meet up face to face more when they have the facts.
UConn President Michael J. Hogan briefly addressed the more than 50 students who turned out for Tuesday’s meeting before leaving to attend the Men’s Basketball game.