Budget cuts are complicated and it’s everyone’s fault  

By Sofia Sawchuk / The Daily Campus

Governor Lamont’s new budget proposal, which would put the University of Connecticut in a $160 million deficit for the next fiscal year, has plunged the student body into panic about tuition costs. In a university-wide email, President Maric, in bold type-face, wrote: “If the university tried to cover the Storrs portion of these shortfalls by raising tuition, it would mean an increase of 19% or $3,000 more per student next year alone.”  

This is the number that I continue to hear tossed around, and it was one of the rallying points behind the Undergraduate Student Government-organized student walk-out on Feb. 15. So if there is a 19% increase in tuition, then who exactly is to blame?  

According to USG, it’s Lamont. In their email to the student-body announcing the walk-out, USG President Mason Holland wrote: “We are not presuming the values of Governor Lamont; he is telling us. His ‘values’ include raising tuition by $3000 for over 30,000 of his constituents.”  

In a press release responding to the walk-out, Lamont claimed: “Our budget proposal includes the largest block grant ever proposed for UConn in state history.” And that the students at the walk-out were “operating under misinformation.”  

To be clear, the Governor’s proposal does include a cut to UConn’s budget. His press release is technically correct, that UConn and UConn Health are receiving the largest block grant in state history, but this ignores several other factors which go into the university’s final budget. First, the block grant was increased 3% despite a 10% increase in CPI inflation since the beginning of FY 2022-2023. This is a 7% cut in real dollars. Second, the figure in Lamont’s response shows that the state is completely eliminating additional funds outside of the block grant. The block grant and additional state funds from FY 2022-2023 (excluding Federal ARPA money) are nominally more than the proposed block grant from FY 2023-2024. 

Perhaps the best answer to all of this is that we won’t see a 19% increase in tuition. The university is a frequent victim to state budget cuts including in 2017, when there was a $140 million deduction in funding. For the next school year, in-state tuition was raised 7.4% and out-of-state tuition was raised 3.5%.  

It was a deliberate choice for Maric to mention a tuition raise in her email to the students. In 2017, then-President Susan Herbst, in a letter to the UConn community, cited: “A prudent and strategic freeze on hiring,” “A delay of certain projects,” “The restructuring of administrative functions” and “Reducing services that, while positive and beneficial, are not essential to the academic mission.” It did not include any explicit mention of a drastic tuition increase. 

To me, this suggests that Maric and the Administration are covering for themselves when the inevitable tuition raises have to be made. If it’s anything like the last round of cuts, and we see a slightly higher than average increase (somewhere in the 5-10% range), the Administration has the convenient narrative that they only raised their tuition by half of what they originally hypothesized.  

I urge students not to completely fall for Lamont’s response. He is a politician and he will weaponize information to meet his ends, just like the university will. These budget cuts are a continuation of a decades-long trend of severe underfunding of public universities. UConn is one of Connecticut’s most important public institutions and it should be treated as such. I think that the walk-out was important and students should express their political ideas more on campus and as they relate to the state and country at large. However, don’t let the university or state government scare you into thinking that the other one is to blame-both institutions care about money over students.   

It’s also important to remember that this is the first round in a budget negotiation. The mass public demonstration from students at the walk-out and any bargaining that the university does (Maric has already threatened to pull UConn’s deal with the XL Center in Hartford) could change the final budget that Lamont signs.  


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