“Education is a right. Say ‘no’ to tuition hikes,” Central Connecticut State University students and professors chanted at Monday’s rally against a proposed tuition increase for all four Connecticut state universities and 12 community colleges.
“Today we’re calling on the state to invest in us,” Eric Bergenn, Central’s Student Government Association President, said at a Monday afternoon rally.
The state university system often feels like it’s the stepchild of the state’s flagship school, the University of Connecticut, when it comes to funding. This year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed bonding another $1.5 billion to spend on UConn, while he cut the budget of the Connecticut State University and community college systems by $14 million. UConn’s budget was cut by $10 million in December.
“I personally support any investments in UConn,” Bergenn said “However, I also support an investment here at CCSU, and at Western Connecticut State University, at Eastern Connecticut State University, at Southern Connecticut State University, and at our state community colleges, and across the street at Charter Oak State College.”
The proposed increases for state universities include, a 5.1 percent tuition hike for in-state commuter students and a 4.1 percent tuition hike for in-state and out-of-state residential students. Students at community colleges would be facing a 5.2 percent tuition hike.
That means out-of-state students at the four state universities could pay as much as $31,402 a year in tuition. In-state commuters would pay about $8,990 a year and in-state residents would pay about $19,897 a year, according to documents provided by the Board of Regents. They’re also proposing increasing student fees for in-state and out-of-state students. Under this proposal, in-state university students would pay $1,030 for the university fee, and out-of-state university students would pay $2,451.
Additionally, the proposal includes a $13-per-credit increase for in-state students at Charter Oak State College, Connecticut’s public online college, making the new cost per credit $258.
The Board of Regent’s Finance Committee will review the proposed tuition increases on Thursday. The rest of the board will consider them at their meeting on March 21.
Central’s Student Government Association is planning another rally in advance of the March 21 Board of Regents meeting, Bergenn said Monday.
“They [the Board of Regents] think that we’re just going to remain silent, and we have to tell them that that’s not going to happen,” Bergenn said to an enthusiastic crowd that responded with loud cheers and applause.
“We need to tell a message to our legislators, we are not your adversaries — we are your revenue. We are the people that you need to invest in so that when we turn around and graduate that money comes back into the system,” Bergenn said.
These tuition hikes will affect the nearly 95,000 students who attend Connecticut state universities and community colleges.
“None of these decisions are easy,” Colleen Johnson, the Board of Regent’s Director of Public Affairs and Marketing, said of raising tuition in such tough economic times.
Johnson explained that the increases are necessary to fund state colleges across Connecticut. The goal is to use the revenue to provide raises for employees and to continue to deliver a competitive education for students.
In December, when the state’s budget fell deep into deficit, Gov. Malloy used his authority to cut 5 percent, or about $14 million from the Board of Regents budget. That rescission, according to the Finance Board’s minutes, could lead to a $6.6 million deficit if the board does nothing to stop it. Meetings with the presidents of the schools are planned for discussions about not filling vacancies.
“We’re not here to fight with the Board of Regents,” Chris Marcelli, a senator from Central’s Student Government Association, said. “This one’s not on them, because the budget they’re allocating amongst these institutions is coming from the state.”
But students at state universities and community colleges are not the only ones who will be paying tuition increases this year.
The UConn Board of Trustees approved a four-year, 6 percent tuition hike in December 2011.
They also increased student activity fees this year by $116 per student. That fee will affect all undergraduate students at the university’s Storrs campus next semester.