The University of Connecticut community spoke in opposition to cutting the school’s budget at an Appropriations Committee Informational Hearing Wednesday night at the Hartford Legislative Office Building.
The hearing was part of a series of state agency budget presentations and public hearings to the Connecticut General Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Tom Bontly, a UConn philosophy professor and president of UConn’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter, said in his testimony that the main reason UConn has grown in the past few decades is due to investments from the state.
“I first joined the UConn faculty in 1998, and in nearly 20 years, I have watched the university change and grow. No longer the ‘suitcase school,’ the school of ‘last resort,’ which it was well into the 1980s, UConn has become a vibrant, thriving, top-notch research institution,” Bontly said. “The main reason, of course, is the sizeable investment which the state made with UConn in 2000, which was signed into law by Governor (John) Rowland.”
Bontly said the investment has “paid handsome dividends” for the university, for its students and for the state economy.
“Since 1995, applications for undergraduate admission have gone up nearly 400 percent, undergraduate and graduate enrollment have both doubled, research funding has doubled and UConn’s rank among national publics has climbed to 18 percent,” Bontly said.
Bontly said that over the last few years, the state of Connecticut has “sharply” reduced its investment in UConn, and the strain on resources is beginning to show.
“Class sizes are up, course offerings are down, academic programs are suffering, research expenditures have leveled off and the university is struggling to hire and retain the faculty members it needs,” Bontly said.
Bontly said another year of declining support would harm students, their families and Connecticut as a whole.
“There would be further increases in tuition and fees, little or no faculty hiring and difficulty in retaining good faculty members - all leading to increased time-to-degree, higher cost, more student debt and reduced access to higher education for our state’s citizens,” Bontly said.
Bontly said an ongoing commitment to higher education investment is part of what makes a state interesting and attractive.
“As you, our elected leaders, struggle once again to balance our state’s budget, I hope you will think not only of the current fiscal crisis, but also of the future: about the kind of vibrant state we want to have, about the need to give our young people a reason to stay in Connecticut, about the need to attract the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, so that we can build a better future for our children,” Bontly said.
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.