by Ray Bendici
Jan 14, 2013
07:32 AMUnsteady Habits
Tuition Up Again? Tell Us Something We Don't Know
So I recently saw this story in the Connecticut Post about how students—and their parents—may be facing yet another round of tuition increases for state universities and community colleges, courtesy of the Connecticut Board of Regents.
"I cannot imagine how it cannot go up," said Lewis J. Robinson Jr., chairman of the board, of tuition in the article. This, of course, coming from the Board of Regents, which clearly has struggled with toeing the line on anything, starting with their own bloated salaries—to which former board president Robert Kennedy notoriously tried to add last year, in addition to his own generous perks, before being discovered and forced to resign.
It's not a done deal by any means and appears to just be in the "discussion" stages, but given the recent track record of college tuition costs across the country—raising yet another 4.8 percent this year according to Bloomberg, continuing to outpace inflation—does anyone really think that it won't happen?
Of course, the real story/non-story here is that tuition needs to go up yet again, even though according to officials mentioned in the aforementioned Post article, enrollment is either down or flat at most state universities.
I wrote an aritlcle back in the September 2010 issue of Connecticut Magazine looking at UConn's spending problem—UConn, for the record, operates under a different board than the other state universities and colleges, although their challenges in tuition costs are essentially the same. The gist of the article was that although financial aid and the price for physically operating the campus had increased, the biggest chunk of the pie was going to pay the salaries and benefits of university administration, faculty and staff.
The cost of personnel services and benefits had gone from $135 million in 1995 to $535 million in 2012—a whopping increase of nearly 300 percent—although the number of total employees at UConn had actually declined by 135 over that time period. At the time, Richard Gray, UConn's vice president and the university's chief financial officer, told me that personnel costs probably respresented 60 percent of the school's cost, and that 95 percent of those costs were determined by collective-bargaining agreements.
Bottom line: I don't know what exactly is driving the new conversation about tuition increases, but I'd be shocked if it didn't somehow involve employee salary and benefits. To quote The Talking Heads: "Same as it ever was ..."