Editorial: Proposed budget proves damaging to UConn

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivers his budget address to members of the house and senate inside the Hall of the House at the state Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Governor Malloy proposed a new state budget on Feb. 9, laying out over $1 billion in reductions. As a public university, the University of Connecticut was on the receiving end of a proposed four percent reduction in state funding. While it is understandable that UConn be included in cost reduction measures, the state cannot continue to chip away at the university budget as a means of scrapping together savings. Long-term budget reductions for the university would provide a far more stable and beneficial means of reducing the financial burden of the university.

In response to the proposed cuts, UConn President Susan Herbst commented:
“The proposed cuts could have been much deeper and we are grateful for every penny the state is able to provide during these difficult budget years. We will have to analyze how damaging the proposed cuts would be for the university.”

Herbst’s role as an advocate for UConn to the governor and to Hartford is clear. However, using such conciliatory language threatens to undermine this position. The CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Thomas estimated that the state provides about 30 percent of UConn’s funding. As this percentage has diminished over the years, it is more important than ever for the university President to fight for every penny available to the UConn system.

Moving forward, the university must come to terms with shrinking state contributions to its budget. Preparing for long-term spending reductions, stabilizing enrollment and finding small but effective cost reductions will ensure that proposed budget reductions have a more limited impact in Storrs. As a public entity, the university has a responsibility to rein in expenses and perform the duties of an elite university at a responsible cost.

With that said, the state must also prioritize UConn as an engine of academic and economic growth for Connecticut. UConn estimates a $3.4 billion yearly impact on the Connecticut economy. UConn provides an invaluable resource to the state and this should be kept in mind when creating yearly budgets. Given the continued fiscal troubles facing the state, Hartford and the university should consider long term adjustments to UConn’s budget to provide a more stable reduction to overall costs.