On Sept. 22, 2017, students and faculty of the University of Connecticut combined to form a strong coalition in the state capitol of Hartford to protest the budget cut announced earlier that month, which was projected to be detrimental to the university’s future and the education it provides to more than 32,000 students, of whom most are Connecticut residents.
Through a saddening email from President Susan Herbst, UConn students learned of a dangerous future awaiting them in the coming years, and were forced to imagine the loss of services that had long existed to benefit and contribute to the environment of this public university. Facilities such as UConn Health and clinics may have been forced to shut down, and the hopes many students place on grants and funds had become woefully dim.
Yet more than 3,000 miles away in Berkeley, California, students of the previously No. 1 ranked public university in America have already been dealing with such stark realities for more than a year. In 2016, the state of California reduced UC Berkeley budgets by roughly 54 million dollars, a sixth of what the cuts are projected to be for UConn. In 2017, the university had been running on a 150 million dollar deficit and had to downsize the size of its teaching faculty by more than 500 positions.
“I’m a sophomore here at Berkeley and it just seems impossible to get into the classes I want or the classes I need,” said Berkeley student Y.J. Cai. “Most of my professors are unavailable for office hours and it’s very hard to make any kind of appointment with advisors or faculty. Honestly, it’s so terrible.”
An article from Business Insider suggests similar issues may arise from the budget cut for UConn, a university that works to help students, giving out more than 470 million a year in various forms of financial aid.
However, large budget cuts are not restrained to just UConn and UC Berkeley. As an article from the Atlantic suggests, all but three states in the U.S. are cutting budgets for colleges and universities, while tuition is on the rise in all fifty states. Earlier this year, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, Missouri and Ohio State University all protested budget cuts planned for the upcoming year that would hurt these universities and their students in a very real and crippling way.
One article from PBS journalist Jon Marcus states that minority students, many of whom rely on financial aid, are being disproportionally hit by these cuts and may force some to abandon higher education due to the sheer cost of receiving one.
As students in college, receiving a good education is our primary concern which directly affects our future and our potential to contribute to our families and societies after we graduate. For many of us, a budget cut places an unnecessary burden on our shoulders. It even forces us to think, “Is the price of education worth it?” Such a question should be the foremost moral adversary to state and federal officials who mistakenly view public universities as enterprises instead of fostering institutions that nurture possibilities and opportunities for the forthcoming generations and workforces.
UConn is the vanguard of the state of Connecticut’s financial constituents, providing the state with more than 3.5 billion dollars a year. As advertised on banners all around the school, it is also the employer of three in every 90 jobs in Connecticut. But as an educational institution, UConn’s primary task is and always has been to educate and cultivate, with students at its very core.
Budget cuts may solve at hand problems of legislators in the short term, but sadly, it is the students of UConn and of many more public universities across the country who will suffer, and this is a problem of devastating proportions to each and every state in the long term.
TianGe Liu is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.