CT Colleges & Universities Struggle With Budget Deficit

CT Colleges & Universities Struggle With Budget Deficit

Ryan Brooks, Assistant News Editor

As the Connecticut General Assembly and Board of Regents (BOR) begin their 2021 budget deliberations, legislators and professors are expressing their concerns about the proposed Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) budget cuts.

Last fall, former CSCU President Mark Ojakian and the Board of Regents announced that all Connecticut Colleges and the four Connecticut State Universities would face up to a $70 million budget shortfall.

In an effort to make up for the deficit, the BOR proposed a number of controversial actions, resulting in faculty and student-led protests.

According to the BOR meeting packet released in October, “revisions [to the budget] are to include details of across-the-board cuts at universities and colleges.”

For CCSU, the packet recommends “the elimination of 20 faculty positions, 10 percent reduction in peer tutors, [and a] reduction in library resources and funding that supports recruitment and student success endeavors.”

The packet also proposes a hiring freeze at all CSCU institutions.

Lisa Mangini, a professor at Asnuntuck Community College, expressed her displeasure with the Board’s proposals in a letter.

“The vast majority of students who enroll in these institutions are in-state residents. Maintaining the high-quality education available to them at CSCU schools will attract and retain students. Cutting corners on allocated time for faculty research, administrative duties, and student recruitment and support while increasing faculty course loads by 20 percent (without additional compensation) will surely impact students negatively, as will the elimination of enrichment programs, such as guest speakers.”

Christopher Dean, a former Southern Connecticut State University assistant professor, expressed similar concerns to the Board.

“If the contract proposal that you have brought forward, with the cutting of funds for academic research, the loss of intellectual property, and an increase in teaching load for all CSCU faculty, is at the heart of your negotiations, then you are dooming people in Connecticut, first-generation students in particular, to a grim collegiate experience,” Dean said.

Now, several months later, some CT legislators are optimistic by the unexpected $130 million surplus in the state budget.

Looking to prevent cuts to both CSCU Colleges and Universities, Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a leading Democrat in the General Assembly Appropriations Committee, told the CT Mirror, “legislators need at least to study the pandemic’s impact on two key program areas: social services for the disabled and poor, and the state’s community college system. I think we should be having a discussion about these groups’ funding needs, [the] community college system is vital for helping the state’s economy climb out of the current recession.”

In addition to the excitement over the surprise surplus, Chris Murphy, one of Connecticut’s two Democratic Senators, is pushing the Senate to move on the new Biden administrations COVID relief bill.

“My clear message is that our priority needs to be this package or a version of it that can pass the Senate,” Murphy told The Hill, a U.S. political website.

The BOR is scheduled to meet on Friday, Jan. 29, to discuss any further steps.