CSCU Gets Hit With Budget Cuts

by Lorenzo Burgio and Lauren Lustgarten

After realizing that years of cutting costs and services is not a feasible solution to the financial challenges Connecticut has been facing, on Feb. 8, Governor Malloy released his proposed budget for 2018. This budget consists of a 4.4 percent cut to the Connecticut State Colleges and University (CSCU) system. This cut represents a decrease of approximately $25 million to the total allocation.

CSCU President Mark Ojakian released a statement following the announcement of this proposed budget.

“Our state has faced significant fiscal challenges for some time and there was no indication that this year would be different,” said Ojakian. “Over the last year and a half, we have made many tough decisions to live within our means while always putting our students first.  However, responding year after year by cutting costs and services is not a viable solution to the shrinking budgets we know exist in the foreseeable future. We must do our part to develop a long-term plan for our system that is realistic, predictable and sustainable in the future and provides our students the opportunities they need and deserve.”

CCSU professor and chair holder in public policy Don DeFronzo believes this budget is significant, but the outcome remains undetermined at this point.

“Where this all falls out is probably a little premature to determine, but it is a significant cut and there will probably be some negative impacts across the system,” said DeFronzo. “The governor’s budget is balanced with the assumption that there is going to be $700 million in the union concessions from all the various state employees and without that $700 million in concessions, that sets up a potential situation where perhaps hundreds, maybe thousands of employees will be laid off and that could have a far more detrimental effect to the university system than any other part of the budget. It’s a real daunting process no matter how you look at it. Certainly that aspect of the $700 million in union concessions, which is planned for but not at all determined yet, is the real ticking time bomb in terms of what might happen.”

CSCU educates 45 percent of Connecticut’s college-age population, while almost 75 percent are employed in the state within nine months of graduation.

“I believe that the 4.4 percent budget cut to the CSCU system is detrimental to not only students who cannot afford a tuition increase, but also to the longevity of our state,” said CCSU Student Government Association Treasuruer Brendan Kruh. “I know that as we raise the cost of attending our public institutions, we will be pricing out a demographic of disadvantaged students.”

“The fact of the matter is, 30 percent of our high school graduates leave the state to attend college elsewhere. As we increase tuition, we can expect that this number will grow larger,” said Kruh. “Students who attend college out of state are more likely to attain employment near where they went to college, than they are to return home. If we continue to increase the cost of tuition out state is in serious jeopardy of losing students whose public education is an investment in our state’s economic future.”

In a statement released on Feb. 8 by Matt Fleury, the chief executive officer of the CSCU system, it was stated that he asked Ojakian to develop a management recommendation for the Board in order to close the proposed deficit in the biennial budget, but “there remains no credible reason to treat these circumstances as temporary.”

The recommendations aim “to streamline the administrative process that frustrates staff and students to re-direct all possible resources to serving and teaching,” wrote Fleury in the statement. “They will be a good start, but not remotely the full solution.” The CSCU system plans to have all recommendations in order by July 1 to move forward with the plan.

“What is needed in 2018 differs greatly from what was needed in 2011 when the system was created. The needs of our students are different, our economy is different and the state resources available to support higher education are different,” wrote Fleury in the statement.

“The Governor’s proposed budges is the beginning of a long conversation realated to the budget,” said CCSU’s chief financial officer Charlene Casamento.