Trustees table tuition increase

Next year, you may be paying more for your UVM education. The Board of Trustees tabled the decision to vote on the 5.8 percent tuition increase until the next meeting in May, SGA Vice President David Maciewicz said. A Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 tuition increase of at least 5.8 percent, will be necessary to maintain academic quality, Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Cate said. The current tuition rates are $12,180 for in-state and $30,744 for out-of-state. If the proposed 5.8 percent increase is approved, tution would be $12,866 and $32,527, respectively, according to the FY 2012 budget proposal. Even with the proposed increase, the University would have a $4.1 million budgetary shortfall, Cate said. “We obviously will not propose to the board a budget that is not balanced,” he said in his report. The search to cut budget expenses is expected to continue until the board submits its report in May, President Daniel Mark Fogel said. Feedback from an e-mail sent out to students and faculty included a call to freeze tenured faculty pay raises for the year which could cut expenses by $2.7 million, Vice President for Enrollment Management Chris Lucier said.   “I am sure that we all want the administration to go back and find something, but I am sure that our options are limited,” Budget, Finance and Investment Chairwoman Debbie McAneny said. The only way to cut the expenses of running the school is to decrease the amount of budget spent on personnel, which would compromise quality, President Fogel said. Last year, the University received 14 percent of its funds from the state. That is equivalent to a state appropriation of $43,000, Cate said. It is predicted that the state will level-fund the school, or give the University the same amount of money it received last year, he said.   “We believe that the assumption about the state appropriation may be overly optimistic,” Cate said. “But it does represent the amount for which we will be advocating.” Level-funded appropriations from the state are not expected to continue indefinitely. The future of Vermont can not be invested in unless you invest in its higher education, Vermont State Rep. Kesha Ram said. “We are perhaps [one of] the most underfunded public universities in the nation,” Fogel said. However, Vermont is making cuts all across the state. State employees are receiving cuts in their pension benefits, Vermont State Rep. Carolyn Branagans said.   Lucier addressed the ways that current students could reduce their financial burden by saying that they should cut down on discretionary costs, such as cell phones. If a student can’t afford to have a cell phone, he/she is not going to be able to afford the cost of tuition, student trustee Brian Sozansky said.   As tuition is increased, more students will be asking for assistance from the school through financial aid, Sozansky said. The plan is to increase financial aid by $10.7 million in FY 2012, Cate’s written report stated. Apart from discussing solutions for current students, some board members said that the proposal may repel prospective students. The continued increase in tuition will prevent students from sending in applications, trustee David Daigle said. “You have to be careful about sticker shock out there,” Vice Chairman of Budget, Finance and Investment Samuel Bain said. Cuts to financial aid would compromise the University’s appeal to prospective students. There is an element of financial inducement, Lucier said.   Daigle believes that cuts are compromising the students’ experience, such as a rising student-to-faculty ratio and underinvestment in the University’s infrastructure. “There are opportunity costs of what were doing and what we have done,” he said.