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Student poll shows support for tuition hike

by Richard Veilleux - March 2, 2009


More than 92 percent of 18,855 responses to a recent survey sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government indicated support for a tuition increase of 8.7 percent for the 2009-10 academic year, one of four options on the one-question survey.

“I think the results were amazing,” said USG President Meredith Zaritheny. “I’m proud of the UConn students. They want to move in a positive direction, and they opted for the middle ground.”

The survey asked students: Of the following options regarding tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year, which do you prefer? The options were no increase, or increases of 6 percent, 8.7 percent, or 13.67 percent. Each option other than 8.7 percent received fewer than 3 percent of the votes.

Zaritheny said she will deliver the student tally to the trustees during their March 10 meeting, when they will consider next year’s tuition and fees. She also will discuss student concerns, she says.

Zaritheny said she undertook the survey because University President Michael Hogan asked her to attend the trustees meeting and discuss students’ opinions regarding tuition. But Zaritheny said she couldn’t make a report in a vacuum.

“I couldn’t just say ‘this is what the students are thinking,’” she said.

“I had to do something to get a feel for how the majority of students felt, and a survey was the best way to reach the most students. Now I know what they want. Now I can help communicate what the students want with a measure of confidence.”

The USG also sponsored a town-hall style meeting Feb. 24, at which Hogan appeared briefly to welcome students and encourage a discussion with a panel of administrators, including Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Gray, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Barry Feldman, Vice President for Student Affairs John Saddlemire, and Hogan’s Chief-of-Staff Lisa Troyer.

“This may be one of the most important decisions for the University that you can weigh in on for years to come,” Hogan told the students, referring to tuition decisions.

During the forum, students cited a range of concerns regarding the budget crisis, and asked administrators to continue the dialogue and involve them in the difficult decisions that would be made.

The opinion poll, which was sent to students the week before the town meeting, briefly outlined the potential effects of the four alternative tuition increase scenarios. In the face of the deficit facing UConn during the next two years, the poll said, a too-low tuition increase would likely result in program cuts, job losses, and a reduction in financial aid, leaving students with fewer and larger classes. Too high an increase, however, would make it difficult for many students to continue.

“This is an extraordinary display of student engagement,” Hogan said of the town meeting and survey.

“President Zaritheny and the USG should be commended for rallying the students to become involved in this decision. We take their input very seriously – and their concerns.”

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