With no dissenting voices, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved a four-year plan Monday to increase student tuition by around 6 percent a year to hire additional faculty.
The plan is expected to bring in about $50 million in revenue over the four year period. How much tuition rates increase will depend on whether the state chooses to appropriate additional funding to the university.
Assuming a .5 percent increase in state funding during each year, student tuition rates will rise 5.5, 5.8, 6, and 6.3 percent respectively. If that’s the case an in-state student would be paying $13,130 during the last year of the plan. The current rate is $10,670.
If state funding levels remain the same tuition will increase by 6, 6.3, 6.5, and 6.8 percent respectively. Under that scenario an in-state student would be paying $13,346 during the final year of the plan.
The plan also increases fees by 3 percent per year, as well as increases to the cost of room and board.
UConn President Susan Herbst said that raising tuition is the most difficult task of university presidents and trustee boards but said the school needed additional funds to cover budget cuts and hire additional staff.
Herbst said the increased rates will help bring on about 290 new faculty members which, will improve the university’s student to faculty ratio. The added hires would bring that ratio to 15:1, down from the current 18:1 ratio. She said it is important to remember that faculty members are the backbones of universities.
“When you do not have strong faculty members you invent less and you create less. The university that will cure cancer will be one where there are cancer researchers hired. The university that will invent the cleanest forms of energy will be the one where more engineers are hired,” she said.
UConn’s “sticker price” is still low compared to the university’s peers and much less than the cost of attending a private university, she said.
Herbst said the school had finally broken into the U.S. News and World Report’s top 20 public universities ranking and should slip because of budget cuts.
“I wasn’t hired to be smug at No. 19,” she said
During a portion of the meeting devoted to public comment, Sam Tracy, UConn president of undergraduate student government, said he supported the plan to increase faculty but was disappointed by the timing of the meeting, which he said cut students out of the discussion.
Last week when the plan was first proposed, students were in the process of taking finals, he said. By Monday, the semester was over and any students remaining on campus had until noon to vacate their dorm rooms, he said.
“When we were discussing tuition increases two years ago, I was one of many students who came to this meeting in order to speak about tuition increases in the public comment section. As you can see, I’m the only one here today,” he said.
Herbst said the intent of scheduling the meeting Monday was not to cut students out of the loop, but allow families to start planning.
“Students and parents need to start planning now for September. Other institutions around the country have already set their tuition, we’re actually a little bit late in this,” she said.
The plan the board approves will allow families the stability of knowing what tuition rates will be for the next for years, something unusual for a university, she said.
However, former Mansfield state Rep. Jonathan Pelto called the four year plan a political maneuver by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration to get the tuition hikes out the way before the next gubernatorial election.
“It’s like raising taxes for four years so by the time of the next election everyone forgot,” he said.
Pelto questioned whether the additional funds would actually be used to hire new faculty when funding to the school has been cut recently. Last year the university’s block grants were cut by $45 million. Pelto said the school would likely have to use some of the new money deal with funding cuts.
“They will have to maintain existing resources never mind expanding them,” he said.
Andrew Doba, Malloy’s spokesman, said the governor’s support of a plan to raise tuition rates was contingent on the school spending the money on new faculty.
“We’re going to hold them to that,” he said.
Herbst maintained the money generated will be used exclusively for new staff, something she said will be big news in the higher education community.
“The great thing about it for us is there’s a lot of institutions out there who are really struggling, who have great faculty and it is our goal to attract them to UConn,” she said.