As was to be expected and has been the norm, when the Board of Trustees met exactly one week ago, state budget cuts were yet again a main topic of discussion. There will be a 7-percent decrease in funding for the University of Connecticut from the state’s budget over the course of the next two years, which forces the university to make tough financial decisions. This comes as the university has looked to grow both out of necessity, building new residence halls to catch up with an increasing student population, and to preserve and build upon upon its academic and research reputation.
President Susan Herbst said about the cuts, “We are very concerned about the effect another round of significant cuts will have on our students, the quality of education we are able to offer and our place in the rankings.” As Herbst said in the meeting, the cuts certainly could have been worse, but they definitely could have been a lot better. This has been the trend for the past several years.
As was stated in a January article from UConn Today, decreases in state funding have been compensated for by cutting some of the operating costs of the university in the past. Today, when there are additional budget cuts it seems the university has fewer choices, making up for it by increasing revenue through tuition hikes.
A study done by Grapevine at the Illinois State University College of Education covering the 2016-17 fiscal year finds that 39 states actually saw increases in state funding for higher education. Connecticut is among the 10 states that continued to see decreases. Increasing tuition is not an “easy” fix to the problem; as tuition increases, more and more of the university operating expenses are financed by loans. It seems hard to imagine when this cycle of budget cuts and increased tuition will change. Until it does, UConn will continue to face increasingly difficult financial decisions that may become unsustainable.