HARTFORD — Tuition is poised to increase by an average of more than 5 percent for in-state students at Connecticut state universities and community colleges next year, while costs for out-of-state students would decline.
The Board of Regents’ finance committee is expected to vote Tuesday to recommend the boost in 2013-14 annual tuition and fees at the state’s 12 community colleges by about 5.23 percent, from $3,598 to $3,786. Tuition and fees for in-state students attending Southern, Western, Central and Eastern Connecticut state universities, meanwhile, would go up an average of 5.1 percent, from $8,556 to $8,990.
The committee’s recommendation will go to the full board in March.
“With tuition going up and financial aid also being cut, access to a college education for some may not be a reality for some students,” said state Rep. Roberta Willis, D-64, and co-chair of the Legislature’s Higher Education Committee.
She called the action “inevitable” given repeated cuts to funding. The regents have already cut $14.4 million from their current year budget when the state imposed rescissions to help close a $360 million state budget deficit.
The increases are in step with a planned 5.5 percent increase next year in the University of Connecticut’s tuition, and are far less than the double-digit increase threatened last month.
The finance committee will also consider an administration proposal to reduce a systemwide fee charged to out-of-state undergraduate students. Out-of-state students, in addition to paying far more than what in-state students pay for tuition, also pay a $2,451 university fee, which is 2-½ times as much as the in-state university fee. That would be knocked down to $1,030, leaving out-of-state students with a total annual tuition and fees bill of $19,074, a 2.6 percent decrease over this year.
“Each of the universities expressed concern that the high cost of the out-of-state rate was a major deterrent to attracting out-of-state students,” the proposal reads. “Reducing the cost by $1,400 would improve marketing of academic programs to non-resident students and have a modest impact on overall revenues.”
The reduction would mean the loss of about $2 million, but officials hope to offset that by attracting more out-of-state students. The state raises $27 million annually from the university fee and uses it to pay down debt service on auxiliary facilities.
In January, the board’s finance committee began exploring options to offset a cut in state funding and possible enrollment decline. There are 58,730 students attending the state’s community colleges and about 35,000 attending the state universities.
“I cannot imagine how it cannot go up,” Lewis J. Robinson Jr., chairman of the board, said at the time.
One scenario reviewed by the committee last month would have raised tuition by as much 14 percent. Students at both Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury called any increase too much.
“I can say personally that I don’t think a tuition increase is the right thing to do when enrollment is dropping,” Michael Fraser, a student at Western and a member of the regents said Monday.
Margaret Buzak, a freshman at Western Connecticut State University, said an increase would be tough.
“My family is struggling to pay the tuition anyway,” said Buzak, from Bethel.
As a musical theater major, Buzak will also face a new $450 fee each semester. At Western, the proposal calls for several new program fees in addition to tuition and university increases. Western students in art, music and theater programs will be asked to pay between $300 an $500 more per semester.
“I understand why they would increase the fee for the theater program, because of the new (visual and performing arts) facility. It’s going to be a little difficult, but it will be worth it because of the new facility we will have,” she said.
Western has been working on its budget for months while awaiting the report from the board about how much the tuition might increase, spokesman Paul Steinmetz said.
“We have a couple of concerns with the general tuition rise. One is that we need to think about the burden on students and not unreasonably increasing student debt is one of the things we talk about here,” he said.
But, at the same time, he said, state aid has decreased — from 42 percent to about 32 percent.
Still, Steinmetz said Western would be glad to see the reduction in the out-of-state tuition.
“Of the four state universities, we’re the most constrained by the out-of-state tuition,” he said. “New York state would be a natural recruitment area for us.”
The staff report that accompanies the recommendation calls the state universities a “relatively good bargain” compared to other state universities in New England and the Northeast. The Connecticut State Universities, according to the report, ranked in the bottom third in tuition and fees this year among the six New England states, New York and New Jersey, and somewhat higher than the national average of $8,392.
Tuition at Connecticut community colleges rose, on average, 4.9 percent a year over the past five years, but it still ranks in the bottom third among comparable institutions in the Northeast. In 2012, the only public community college in New England with a lower tuition rate was in Maine.
Staff writer Eileen Fitzgerald contributed to this report.