University of Connecticut president Susan Herbst said she’s very worried about the future of UConn at a press conference she held yesterday to discuss the state’s proposed $300 million budget cut to the school.
“The stakes could not be higher. We’re the nation’s No. 18 public research university, and it took a lot of investment and hard work by a lot of people to get here. But these budget cuts could take us down very, very quickly in those rankings and could make UConn a very unattractive place for both students and parents,” Herbst said.
She said she’s especially worried about cuts to financial aid.
“One of the areas we spend the most on is financial aid for our students. A lot of our financial aid packages are offered to our students year to year, but we will have to cut some students’ financial aid starting next semester, so that’s how serious this is. As an educator, I hate to worry students or parents, but they should be worried because we’re going to have to cut back on a lot of our services here,” Herbst said.
Herbst said every item in the potential list of cuts is heartbreaking to the university, and that students’ experiences are going to change and deteriorate because of the budget.
“It’s really difficult right now. The magnitude of these cuts is enormous. This is going to be a much lesser place than [students] signed up for and a much lesser place than they dreamed about coming to for college,” she said.
Herbst said another major concern for the university is that, though the state has offered generous funds for UConn’s capital progress, the university is not going to be able to attract people to utilize its new buildings.
“When you cut your operational budget by that much, you can’t attract people to fill the buildings you spent so much money on. The taxpayers of the state of Connecticut spent a lot of money for these facilities and they’re going to be empty. That’s how serious this cut is,” Herbst said. “We need the people, the faculty, the researchers, the staff, the brainpower to actually get that return on investment that the state hoped for when it passed this legislation.”
Herbst said the university has been a great source of revenue for Connecticut’s economy, and that one of the reasons why Governor Dannel Malloy and the legislature invested so much in the university was to try to rebuild the basis of Connecticut’s economy.
“We are recruiting some of the very best kids in the country and the world to come to this university. We want to continue to do to that, and I don’t know why you would want to upset that,” Herbst said. “If we attract great students to the University of Connecticut, a lot of them want to stay here, and that’s how you build up a state’s economy.”
Herbst said it is unrealistic to rely on donations and an endowment to sustain the university.
“Though we appreciate every philanthropic donation we receive, they cannot be used to make up for losses in operating,” she said.
Herbst said UConn was preparing for only a $100 million cut in funding over the next two years.
“We were planning to be cut, and we would never act like UConn is immune to what’s going on in the larger economy. We understand that the state is in a bad economic condition and that our finances haven’t been great. But there’s a difference between $100 million and $300 million,” Herbst said.
Herbst said she is particularly upset about the impact the budget cuts will have on UConn students.
“They came here, they worked hard to get here, and they wanted a great experience with their majors and professors. They want to go off to success, and we’re not going to be able to prepare them for that here. It’s very disheartening,” she said.
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.