Connecticut tuition hikes approved despite student protests

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Mar. 26, 2013
Faculty and students from Eastern and some of the other Connecticut state university campuses protest at a rally on March 21. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Faculty and students from Eastern and some of the other Connecticut state university campuses protest at a rally on March 21. Photos by Melanie Savage.

“The students, united, will never be defeated,” chanted a large group of students and faculty in front of the Eastern Connecticut State University student center on March 21. It was just after 10 a.m., it was cold and it was snowing. Inside, the Board of Regents for Higher Education was gathered in the Betty Tipton Room. Up for discussion was a decision regarding an increase in tuition for the four regional universities and 13 community colleges in the state of Connecticut.

There had been similar rallies at other campuses. Students from all over the state traveled to the Eastern campus for the final rally before the vote. “If you don’t want to chant for yourselves, chant for your brothers and sisters who haven’t had a chance to go to college yet,” said Corey Paris, a university senator from Western Connecticut State University. “This isn’t just your future, it’s your kids’ future,” said Paris.

Todd Aviles, a student and peer counselor at Eastern and the president of the campus’ M.A.L.E.S. (Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence, and Success) organization, expressed anger over talk of dropping the out-of-state tuition while increasing in-state rates (a suggestion that was removed from the table before the vote). “We need to fix what we have here first,” said Aviles. “We need to improve opportunities for students here in Connecticut to attend college.”

Aviles, from Hartford, said he’d gained entry into Eastern through a dual initiative enrollment program supported by university president Elsa Nunez. According to a program brochure: “Hartford Public High School seniors who demonstrate the ability to succeed in college despite very challenging economic, family and community conditions are identified by Hartford Public High School counselors.” Students enroll full-time in community college courses while simultaneously taking one class at Eastern and living on campus. “When their performance in classes at QVCC makes them admissible to Eastern they become full-time Eastern students,” reads the brochure.

Aviles said that while he might not have had the grades for a traditional route into college, "I belong in college."

“[Dual enrollment] has been a good benefit for me, and we need to have this all over the nation,” he said. Most of his fellow Eastern students were receiving financial aid, said Aviles, and could not afford another tuition hike. “I’m tired of this injustice,” he said.

A faculty member from Southern Connecticut State University who did not wish to be identified by name said that her education at San Diego State University had cost her $50 a semester in 1979. Tuition and fees for a commuter student at one of the four regional state universities is currently just under $9,000. “Democracy is built on a solid education,” said the woman. “Education cannot be a profit-driven industry. You cannot make money on everything.” If tuitions continue to rise, students in the state university system might no longer be able to afford to go to class, she said. “Who loses out then?” she asked. Society loses, was her response. By making college unaffordable for a large number of potential students, society could miss out on the cure for cancer or other innovations, she said. “Education is a basic human right,” said the professor.

After the rally outdoors, students were allowed to file quietly into the Betty Tipton Room to testify in front of the board. In the end, the board voted to approve the tuition hikes, with only the two student trustees voting against them. Nine members of the board are appointed by the governor, and four are appointed by legislative leadership. Among the members are attorneys, former legislators and investment firm CEOs. For members' bios, visit the website

Board Chair Lewis J. Robinson has said that the tuition hikes were necessary due to increasing costs coupled with decreasing numbers of students and reductions in state funding to the schools.

The approved hikes will mean an increase of $434 for commuting students at the regional campuses, for a total in tuition and fees of $8,990. Residential student costs will increase to just under $20,000. At the community colleges, the increases will mean an additional $188, for a total of $3,786.

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