A nationwide survey has found that, while higher education budgets in the United States rose and average of 3.4 percent last year, Connecticut’s allocated funds for colleges and universities saw one of the most notable decreases.
This is unacceptable.
Connecticut must prioritize funding for education – be it k-12 or higher learning – because, quite simply, better, increased education is a sound economic investment.
Take the University of Connecticut for example. UConn pays over $200 million in taxes, is responsible for almost 25,000 “supported jobs” and accounts for a $3.4 billion total economic impact, according to a study commissioned by the university and conducted by Tripp Umbach, a private consulting firm. A beneficiary of the state’s NextGen investment in STEM, UConn is currently seeing state funds dwindle year by year.
Connecticut is in a difficult position economically, and Gov. Dannel Malloy has been forced to make budget cuts. Yet, it seems UConn, and higher education in general, are first on the chopping block whenever state budget reductions are deemed necessary. For instance, the proposed budget reduces $25 million from Connecticut state colleges and universities, according to the Connecticut Post; and UConn is staring down a four percent overall decrease in state funding, per the Daily Campus.
This is a dangerous trend that has led to Connecticut falling behind in higher education. At a time when states throughout the country are recognizing the importance of higher education, Connecticut’s overall reduction in higher education funding is 4.1 percent, putting it behind only five other states in terms of losses.
If this budget trouble, and Connecticut’s tendency to cut capital from education to make up for it, persists, the state may no longer be able to pose as the bastion for higher education it claims it is.
This all means that UConn may have to get creative with its capital. The UConn Foundation website states that the university’s endowment is more than $380 million. Herbst and her administration should consider dipping into this stockpile.
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and the politics of higher education and state funding. What’s imperative, though, is that students at UConn continue to receive a quality education. Every year that becomes more difficult. With annual cuts to the budget, the administration often resorts to raising tuition as a solution. The university website says that in-state students pay upwards of $25,000 in yearly expenses, while out-of-state students pay more than $47,000. This is not a new problem – a 1992 New York Times article features a UConn student complaining about a $10,000 tuition – the cost of attending the university has been rising for decades.
Neither the university, by using tuition as a way to stay economically viable, nor the state, by using higher education as a way to avoid bankruptcy, is doing any favors to the American epidemic of costly higher education. Continuing to kick the can down the road will lead to identical results. But the problem has gotten out of hand. The higher education tuition bubble grows every year. The issue is in need of a federal fix or, at the very least, state governments and universities must come together and form a permanent solution instead of shielding themselves.