Connecticut budget proposal calls for higher ed cuts

Funding shortfall 'reopens issue' of tuition increases

Connecticut's proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016 leaves the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) system short $38 million and the University of Connecticut (UConn) short $40 million, reports the Hartford Courant.

Higher education advocates are calling Gov. Dannel Malloy's (D) decision to cut funding a major step back for the system, and administrators say it may result in larger-than-predicted tuition increases and operations adjustments.

"Forty million is not exactly a small bite of the apple," says Rep. Roberta Willis (D), co-chair of the legislature's higher ed committee.

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CSCU system President Gregory Gray says officials will try to shield students and academics, but warns "we are getting very close to that line where we simply cannot operate in the way that we need to operate."

However, he says it likely will not affect Transform CSCU 2020—an improvement program faculty have criticized—because focus may be shifted to less-expensive initiatives for a few years.

The Board of Regents for Higher Education was planning to limit the system's tuition increases to no more than about 2%, but Willis says the funding cut "reopens the issue."

UConn President Susan Herbst echoed Gray's sentiment, saying the funding shortage will mean "deep and significant cuts throughout the university," for which tuition is already set to increase by 6.75% in the fall.

However, Willis did praise Malloy's initiative to permit individuals to refinance student loans through the state Higher Education Student Loan Authority (Megan, Hartford Courant, 2/18).

The takeaway: Connecticut is to cut higher education funding in FY 2016, leaving UConn and CSCU short $40 million and $38 million respectively. System and university leaders say the issue may force them to increase tuition by more than they had planned.

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