President Susan Herbst recently announced to the University of Connecticut that Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget would cut $31.2 million in funding to UConn in the next fiscal year. President Herbst noted, “a cut of that magnitude would be terrible for the university and its operations” and “this cycle is not sustainable if we wish to maintain our quality.” The university should rightly be concerned about this announcement, but any future funding cuts should not be met with a further increase in tuition.
The university has already decided to increase tuition by about 30 percent over the next four years, largely in response to prior cuts in state funding. While students understand the importance of maintaining UConn’s continued growth and academic excellence, an additional increase in tuition would place too great a burden upon students and their families. One of the great advantages of a UConn education is its affordability for Connecticut residents. Additional increases in tuition would only further reduce this important benefit many UConn families rely on. The university should find other ways to reduce the deficit this cut will create.
The most obvious way to do so is to cut expenditures. Where possible, the university should eliminate inefficiency and redundancy in its operations. It should also reduce spending on the goods and the services the university community can best afford to part with. As expected, these decisions will likely be difficult and may remove some benefits students currently enjoy. University administrators have certainly been placed in an unenviable position. Some individuals will be negatively impacted, that is unavoidable. But in dealing with the state budget cuts, the university must make the best choice among several bad options. There is no perfect solution that will satisfy everyone.
However, it is reassuring, and not surprising, to hear that UConn administration along with student groups plan to advocate against this reduction in funding. While President Herbst rightly notes that this budget is preliminary and must be approved by the state legislature, UConn should prepare for the worst and begin some type of preliminary planning. The decision to raise tuition by 30 percent in the next four years is still fresh, and adding an additional increase simply cannot be considered. Of course, the proposed budget is unwelcome news to the UConn community, and will have an impact on our quality as an institution. Our response, however, should not be to sacrifice the affordability of the education UConn has previously provided to its students.