WASHINGTON — At least eight universities, including four public institutions, have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hillary Rodham Clinton to speak on their campuses during the past year, sparking a backlash from some student groups and teachers at a time of austerity in higher education.
In one previously undisclosed transaction, the University of Connecticut — which just raised tuition by 6.5 percent — paid $251,250 for Clinton to speak on campus in April. Other examples include $300,000 to address UCLA in March and $225,000 for a speech scheduled to occur in October at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate also has been paid for speeches at the University at Buffalo, Colgate University and Hamilton College in New York, as well as Simmons College in Massachusetts and the University of Miami in Florida.
Officials at those five schools refused to say what they paid Clinton. But if she earned her standard fee of $200,000 or more, that would mean she took in at least $1.8 million in speaking income from universities during the past nine months.
Since stepping down as secretary of state in early 2013, Clinton has given dozens of paid speeches to industry conventions and Wall Street banks. But Clinton’s acceptance of high fees for university visits has drawn particularly sharp criticism, with some students and academic officials saying the expenditures are a poor use of funds at a time of steep tuition hikes and budget cuts across higher education.
At UNLV, where officials have agreed to raise tuition by 17 percent during the next four years, student government leaders wrote a letter to Clinton last week asking her to return the planned $225,000 fee to the university. If she does not, they say, they intend to protest her visit.
‘‘The students are outraged about this,’’ said Elias Benjelloun, UNLV’s student body president. ‘‘When you see reckless spending, it just belittles the sacrifices students are consistently asked to make. I’m not an accountant or economist, so I can’t put a price tag on how much we should be paying her, but I think she should come for free.’’
Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, declined to comment on the UNLV students’ request.
At seven of the eight universities listed, officials said her fee was paid through a lecture series endowment or private donations and not by tapping tuition, student fees, or public dollars. A spokeswoman for Simmons declined to discuss the school’s arrangement with Clinton.
Merrill said the UCLA and UNLV fees are dedicated to go to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s nonprofit group. Merrill said he did not know whether the other six payments went to the foundation. He also could not say whether the Harry Walker Agency, the speaker’s bureau that manages Clinton’s appearances, received a portion of the fees.
Clinton’s speaking fees could become a political liability for her in the 2016 campaign given that President Obama and other Democrats have made college affordability a central plank of the party’s agenda.