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UD defends cost increases, diversity efforts at state budget hearing

Delaware Public Media

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis defended the school’s plan to charge business, nursing and engineering students more money starting this fall.

The tuition surcharges are expected to be phased in over three years. By Spring 2021, nursing students will pay $1,500 dollars more a year. Business students will face an additional $2,500 per year, while engineering students’ bill will be $4,000 higher.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Brandywine Hundred) said she opposes the tuition surcharge for students entering those programs. She said the state wants more Delawareans to pursue degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM fields.

“My concern is that the additional surcharges for certain majors that are in line with our state like STEM and nursing are going to discourage students, Delawareans from being able to seek those degrees,” she said.

Assanis said the change is necessary remain competitive with similar programs at Penn State or Rutgers University. He added other states better fund the capital needs of their universities, allowing them to spend their resources in other areas.

He pleaded for state funding for hundreds of millions of dollars in building construction costs and maintenance of existing buildings. Assanis said UD has spent about $900 million in capital projects throughout the state in the past decade.

The school’s record on diversity was also among the topics Assanis was asked to address.

Critics have previously complained about the First State’s flagship university lacking inclusiveness. State Rep. JJ Johnson (D-New Castle) said that while he’s impressed with the efforts the school has made to bring in more minority students, he’s disappointed in the progress so far.

“Delaware has a population of over 20 percent minority or African American and the University of Delaware only reflects a 5 percent population, so I think there’s more work that can be done," he said. "Do I know exactly how to remedy this problem? No.”

Assanis points out that enrollment among people of color is up 29 percent on its Newark campus from 2013 to 2017. He said the school has made great strides on increasing diversity in recent years. And he said they will continue pushing for more diversity.

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