Budget gap unable to be covered by donations and federal grants

UConn president Susan Herbst speaks at a Board of Trustees meeting on September 29th, 2016. (Owen Bonaventura/The Daily Campus)

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said today that the university will not be able to make up for budget cuts by using donated funds and federal grants.

“Some have suggested that UConn could cover a two-year $300 million hole in our budget by using ‘donated funds’ and ‘federal grants’. That is absolutely not the case; it is either a misunderstanding or fantasy about how universities operate,” Herbst said in an email.

Herbst said federal grants are donated to universities to fund specific research projects and it would be illegal to use them to replace state operating cuts.

“What’s more, a university cannot obtain grants without scientists, and the Republican budget will decimate our science faculty. And no university can make up for hundreds of millions in cuts through donors- not even Harvard University could do it,” she said.

Herbst said the cut would force the university to dramatically increase tuition and fees, as well as make reductions and closures that would decimate it academically.

“We would be forced to ask students and families to pay much more for much less. That’s a recipe for failure,” she said.

University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the reason why UConn’s estimated budget cut figures are different from those cited by budget proponents is because the proponents were making calculations based on the year-end total after midyear cuts were made, and the university is using the original appropriation number.

“UConn’s calculations use the FY17 original appropriation to ensure the comparisons are consistent, since this discussion is about what UConn will be appropriated over the coming two years in the budget; and it is almost $309 million less than FY17,” Reitz said in an email.

Reitz said UConn already faced midyear reductions that cut the final total of the FY17 allocation.

“Using that end-of-year figure to calculate comparisons, as this budget does, doesn’t blunt the impact on UConn’s students and their university,” Reitz said. “On the contrary, it highlights the fact that UConn was already stretched after absorbing tens of millions of dollars in midyear cuts since 2010 and that further reductions of this magnitude would be disastrous.”

Reitz said the $309 million estimate comprises not just the reduction in the FY18 and FY19 allocations but a reduction in fringe benefit reimbursements as well.

“When the allocation is reduced, the fringe benefit reimbursement also goes down, which translates to additional lost dollars that need to be factored into any conversation about the cuts,” she said.


Gabriella Debenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.