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  March 10, 2003

Tuition Increase Approved For Medical, Dental Students

The Health Center's Board of Directors has approved a 15 percent tuition increase for each of the next two years for medical and dental students and has sent it to the University's Board of Trustees for final action.

The increase, which would take effect in July, is required by the state's Board of Governors of Higher Education. The Board of Governors mandates that the Health Center's tuition and fees should fall between the 70th and 75th percentile of costs for public medical and dental schools nationwide, according to Dr. Bruce Koeppen, dean of academic affairs and education. Currently, the medical school's in-state tuition and fees fall in the 53rd percentile nationally, while the dental school's falls within the 65th percentile.

The increase, approved by the Board of Directors at its meeting Monday, would raise in-state medical students' tuition from $14,830 this year to about $17,000 for next year and about $19,600 the year after. For dental students, tuition would rise from the current rate of $12,500 to $14,300 next year and $16,500 the following year.

"I wish we didn't need to raise tuition and fees to this extent," said Koeppen. "We want UConn to continue to be a highly affordable choice for medical or dental students, but we are bound by the policy that relates our tuition and fees to the national average for public institutions."

Dr. Scott Wetstone, director of health affairs policy planning said the hike is related to the vagaries of health care finance. He said administrators estimated tuition costs nationally would increase by 4 percent a year, but instead they went up by 6.8 percent in fiscal year '02, and by 13.8 percent in fiscal year '03. Preliminary indications are that double-digit increases are likely for fiscal '04 and '05 as well, he added.

In addition, tuition costs were affected by a faltering economy that put state budgets under stress; declining state appropriations to schools; lower rates of government reimbursement for medical care; and the cost-containment pressures of managed care.

"The mandate to keep our tuition and fees within 70 to 75 percent of all state-funded dental schools has both advantages and disadvantage s," said Dr. R. Monty MacNeil, associate dean for academic affairs. "On a positive note, it guarantees that UConn dental students will at most pay 75 percent of the national average, which could be considered a bargain since the school has a very high national ranking. The negative side is that our students are subject to the inflationary actions of other schools, even if UConn appropriately manages its program and finances."

In fiscal year '03, Health Center tuition was ninth lowest of the 10 nearest public medical schools. In order of expense, these schools were: Vermont, both New Jersey medical schools, Maryland, SUNY Downstate, Buffalo, SUNY Upstate, Stony Brook, UConn, and UMass. A Connecticut resident attending one of the eight more expensive medical schools would face out-of-state tuition ranging from $27,000 to $38,000.

"Any way you look at it, we're a great deal," said Wetstone.

Koeppen and MacNeill held two sessions last fall to talk with students about the proposed increases. "The students understood the situation and the need for us to comply with the Board of Governors' directive," Koeppen said. "Like anyone, they weren't particularly pleased to be getting hit in the pocketbook, but we assured them that an increase in tuition will be balanced by an increase in the availability of student loans and scholarships."

Koeppen said a study he undertook several years ago concluded that the true cost of a medical education was more than $85,000 per student per year: "Even with the increase, their education is heavily subsidized," he said.

The tuition increases will go to the University's Board of Trustees for final action in April.