On Oct. 3, Susan Herbst outlined the financial outlook for the university this upcoming fiscal year in her “Report of the President.” According to a report by Patrick Carignan of the Daily Campus, in fiscal year 2017 the UConn budget was cut $11.4 million and they are currently facing the possibility of another $19 million being cut.
Herbst’s straightforward delivery, stating the budget, as it stands, was “grim,” was both appreciated and necessary. The UConn administration must be transparent and honest going forward. Acknowledging the reality of financial constraints is important as the university seeks to plan responsibly for the future.
UConn, like many other public higher education institutions, has faced cuts in public funding. So far, the university has been relatively successful in staying afloat, with a modest budget surplus of $2.7 million for fiscal year 2016. However, there are more steps the university can take to try to maintain financial health without sacrificing the quality of education and research. The administration has been scrutinized in the past for certain spending decisions – both what to cut and what to increase spending on – in the midst of such financial hardship. However the recent decision to admit fewer students in the upcoming years, discussed later in the presidential report, is smart.
“We have to stay within our means and provide a really high quality education for our students,” Herbst said. “Close contact with faculty, smaller class sizes, and a better quality of life is what we aim for.” The most fundamental commitment any higher education institution has is to its students and promoting their intellectual development. Continuing to increase the number of enrolled students to meet projections, given current constraints, would almost certainly compromise this purpose.
The eventual expansion of the university community is certainly a noble goal, and a growing student body would be an important part of it. However, now is not the time. It is hard to see how any such moves would improve either the prestige or ranking of the university without the proper resources to support any growth. If anything, accepting fewer students will aid UConn’s academic reputation with a more selective admission rate.
Herbst is correct in saying that quality must remain the priority for current students and faculty alike. This must remain the priority in financial and budgetary decisions of the university in the future.