State considers university tuition hikes

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As the state budget deficit surpasses the billion-dollar mark, Connecticut college students may pay the price with higher tuition bills.

The Board of Regents for Higher Education — an organization overseeing 17 state institutions across Connecticut — projected a possible 12.4 percent tuition increase to accommodate the $1 billion deficit. The projection, formed earlier this month, follows reductions in government-funded block grants and state grants in the past year, and could increase the cost of campus-living per student by as much as $1,375. At present, the federal block grant provides $143,196,097 to Connecticut community colleges, and the state offers $141,194,660 to state universities.

“These are challenging financial times, so it’s not surprising that increases in tuition are being considered by our institutions of higher education,” said Andrew Doba, director of communications for Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Since the Board of Regents is still waiting for Malloy’s budget presentation scheduled for early February, no plans for a tuition increase have been finalized.

“The Board of Regents is trying to anticipate state budgetary allocations for the next fiscal year before it makes a decision,” said David Levinson, vice president for community colleges under Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (ConnSCU), an association of colleges governed by the Board of Regents.

“There has been no firm decision on the amount of a tuition increase for next year. The 12.4 percent was mentioned as a possibility, though the Board of Regents has not taken any definitive action,” Levinson added.

According to ConnSCU Director of Public Affairs Colleen Flanagan, a tuition increase is only “a piece of the puzzle,” and budget cuts and other methods will also be considered to accommodate the state deficit. These future proposals would first have to be brought before some of the students they affect — any proposed increase would first be presented to the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Board of Regents, composed of 17 members representing each of the 17 ConnSCU institutions. Once there is a definitive proposal, the members of the advisory committee would be responsible for gauging student reactions on their respective campuses and discussing these reactions with the Board of Regents.

“We are making sure that whatever proposal the regents consider has an opportunity to be analyzed and discussed by students of our institutions,” Johnson said. “While the SAC’s input and suggestions are helpful to the Board of Regents, and it’s critical to have student voices heard throughout any process that impacts them, any decisions regarding tuition or fees are made solely by the Board of Regents itself, including the two student members.”

News of a potential tuition increase has stirred campus dissent within the state-funded universities governed by the Board of Regents.

“Many [students] go to Southern because the prices are cheaper than private schools,” said Aubrinne Losty, a Southern Connecticut State sophomore with two other college-aged siblings. “It’s not fair that we have to pay more.”

Katie Johnstone, another sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University, also questioned the fairness of a possible increase in tuition.

“I don’t get any financial aid, and my mom already has to shovel in a lot of money. This is a state college, and people should be able to afford it,” Johnstone said.

However, the Board of Regents promises to take student financial situations into account.

“The regents are very mindful that any increase is very difficult for students to absorb,” Johnson said on behalf of the board. “[The board] is trying to be very understanding and make things affordable, while being mindful of the fiscal situation we’re in. It’s a balancing act.”

The Board of Regents will convene in February to discuss potential proposals for increasing tuition rates.

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