University President Susan Herbst is a guest contributor to UConn Today. Her posts will generally appear on Wednesdays. For previous posts in her blog School of Thought, click here.
All great universities continuously evolve. The University of Connecticut is, of course, no exception. With an eye on expanding our own capacity for exceptional teaching and research over the coming years, UConn recently adopted a plan that will assist us in boosting our faculty numbers by nearly 300 by fiscal year 2016.
Approved by our University Board of Trustees last month, this four-year plan will also benefit our students in new ways, helping them access the courses they need to complete their degree and reducing their time to graduation. Under the four-year tuition and fee plan, the total cost of attending UConn – including tuition, fees, room, and board – will increase by about 4.5 percent over each of the next four years.
I recently addressed this in a piece published in The Hartford Courant and reached out to our undergraduate students via email over the winter break, but I would like to reiterate several points for our students and the University community as a whole in light of this news.
The state of Connecticut has invested significantly in our University. From the ongoing enhancement of our campuses through the multi-billion UConn 2000 program to the promising forward progress of the Bioscience Connecticut and Tech Park initiatives, we have much to look forward to over the next few years, particularly at a time when many public universities have endured only decreases in state funding.
Yet the financial reality is that the University has seen dramatic cuts in our operating budget from the state in recent years, with direct state support dropping to 28 percent of UConn’s budget. This, combined with the fact that undergraduate enrollment has risen by 53 percent since 1995, while the number of faculty at UConn has increased only by 16 percent, has led to larger classes and a greater challenge for students who are looking to finish their UConn degrees in a timely fashion. Completing an undergraduate degree in four years or less here at the University can be genuinely hard to do when the courses one needs to take are not offered or are filled to capacity year after year.
To that end, the four-year plan adopted by the Board of Trustees will generate a portion of the funding needed to hire much-needed new professors. And in looking ahead with a four-year plan, the Board’s intent is to give students and families as much notice as possible for financial planning purposes.
Tuition increases are never popular. However, the cost of a UConn education does remain competitive nationally – our 2012 tuition and mandatory fee costs rank UConn 26th out of the top 53 public universities. The University also has a long history of offering financial aid to students in need. This situation is no different, and we will allocate additional resources to help those most in need now.
I want to urge our students to hold me and our administration accountable for delivering the high-quality education that they deserve as students attending one of the nation’s top 20 public universities. I also ask that UConn students continue to participate in future Town Hall meetings and share their feedback at my open office hours, held regularly throughout the year.
It has been an honor to serve such an incredibly talented student body, and I look forward to making their experience here at the University even better in the coming years.