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Undergraduate Assembly leaders said yesterday administrators "misled" students when they said they would continue lowering the rate of increase in tuition and fees, while actually planning to keep the rise the same as last year. UA members pointed to President Sheldon Hackney's statement earlier this week that the University would have kept the rate of increase in tuition and fees constant next year if budgetary problems had not emerged due to possible state funding cuts. Hackney announced Wednesday a planned 6.9 percent raise in tuition and fees for next year, breaking a four-year trend of lowering cost increases. But student leaders said his announcement that the rate would have been 6.7 percent for the second straight year indicates that the administration did not plan to continue the pattern. Provost Michael Aiken countered the UA arguments last night, saying the total increase students would have paid next year would have been slightly lower than this year's rise. He said the students' complaint is not valid, insisting the University would have proven its commitment to lowering the rate of increase if the University was not faced with losing $18.6 million in state funding. UA Vice Chairperson Michael Feinberg said yesterday that while the 6.9 percent increase proposed after Casey's budget request is a "blessing," the University's initial plan to raise tuition and fees 6.7 percent showed a lack of effort to keep students' costs down. Budget Director Steven Golding said last night the 6.7 percent increase was never finalized, adding that it was proposed as a "maximum" figure. Golding said the rate would not have been lower because the University is not receiving enough unrestricted donations. These donations are generally used to offset operating costs, and thereby keep tuition and fee increases down. "We're not in a kind of economic period that promoted a policy of reducing tuition at a rate we saw in previous years," Golding said. But the budget director said the administration has had a firm commitment to keeping costs down for the past several years. Feinberg said he wants the administration to develop a long-term plan for keeping percentage increases down. He said he will ask administrators to outline the steps they will take to lower the rate for future years, saying he will request they set up a "cushion" to prepare for unexpected glitches. "I'm worried about the University's long-term commitment," he said. "Last year it was steam and electricity, this year Harrisburg . . . What's it going to be next year?" Feinberg said the UA will redouble its efforts to keep next year's rise in tuition down immediately after the Trustees vote on Hackney's proposal today. Golding said administrators would be willing to meet with students, adding that "the administration and the Trustees are always willing to talk about ways to keep tuition down." "It has to be done with the understanding that the University will be under considerable pressure if the governor's proposed cuts go through," Golding said.

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