Connecticut’s Cuts

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More budget cuts are coming for Connecticut colleges. And legislators and college administrators aren’t being terribly reassuring about it. Basically, get ready for it, they say. According to an article by Jacqueline Rabe in the Connecticut Mirror:

Officials at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities are bracing for another tough budget year as the legislature and new governor grapple with next year’s $3.67 billion deficit. “We all know cuts are coming. It’s just a matter of how much,” Connecticut State University System Chancellor David G. Carter told a student member of the Board of Trustees at a recent meeting.

And legislators are not trying to allay those concerns. “Public universities are preparing for what they expect to come, and that’s cuts from the state,” said Rep. Roberta B. Willis, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee and a Democrat from Salisbury. “Universities have to control their costs and find savings.”

This is understandable. In Connecticut, as in most states, large potions of the budget are predetermined by state statute. Higher education represents one of the few parts of the state budget where the legislature actually has the power to reduce costs.

Still this is disturbing. Journalism is rife with stories about how the Great Recession is causing cutbacks in all areas, both public and personal. Families sell vacation houses. Businessmen start packing lunches. The federal government goes into greater debt just to keep the offices running.

In most cases, however, we talk of Great Recession sacrifices in terms of planning for the future. Once the economy turns around all of this bleak living will cease. We’ll have enough money for the things we like soon enough, right?

This is definitely not true of higher education. In fact, the state of Connecticut has been steadily reducing the amount of money it provides for public higher education. Even in the rocking, rolling, spendthrift 2000s, Connecticut effectively reduced its support for higher education.

In 1990 the state provided more than 44 percent of the University of Connecticut’s total operating expenditures, for instance. In 2009, in contrast, the state provided only a quarter of UConn’s total budget. Granted, the total operating expenditures of the university also increased dramatically during this period, but in 1990 UConn students (in-state) paid a total $2,631 in tuition and fees. In 2009 UConn students paid a total $9,338 a year to attend the school. That represents a real increase of more than $5,000.

With a track record like that, there’s little reason to think the colleges are ever getting generous state support back, despite the promise of governor-elect Dan Malloy (above) to continue funding UConn “at a level that is appropriate.” [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer