With the new fiscal year set to begin midnight Wednesday, UConn is facing a minimum $28.2 million reduction in state funding from the previous year, dropping the rate of funding the state lends to its flagship university to an all-time low.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has the power to additionally reduce the amount appropriated to UConn by 5 percent before midnight tonight, which could become 6.5 percent depending on a vote by the legislature, which is currently in special session.
Any further reductions would force the University’s Board of Trustees to revise the new fiscal year’s spending plan, which was finalized on June 24 and divvied up a total of $1.3 billion – $243.2 million from the state – for UConn Storrs and its branch campuses.
“We are waiting and watching and hoping,” UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.
The state will now fund only 30 percent of the university’s budget, an appreciable decrease from 43 percent in 2000, and roughly 50 percent in the early 90’s, Reitz said.
State lawmakers originally proposed to cut UConn’s funding by $40 million, but later scaled that back to $28.2 million upon hearing pleas from those who would be most impacted.
”I think it was helpful for legislators to hear student voices (in February). It had an impact in how law makers made their cuts and I believe and I hope it will continue to,” Retiz said.
UConn is not alone in receiving less state higher-education funding.
From 2003 to 2012 the national average for public university funding from their respective state dropped from 32 to 23 percent, according to a report to the Chairman, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, United States Senate in 2014.
“We are grateful for what we receive,” Reitz said. “We are in better shape than other universities.”
The state’s support is not only being used to fund the day-to-day operations of the school, but infrastructure for the future as well.
Nineteen million of the $243.2 million grant is designated for the Next Generation Connecticut project, which Reitz said the university is obligated to put towards NextGren as a part of an agreement made in spring 2013.
The state funding reductions resulted in $14.6 million less than requested specifically for Next Generations, making UConn unable to proceed with all of the hiring and student scholarships that were planned for this year. The school’s employment of 50 faculty members across all campuses reaches only half of their original goal for this year.
“The hardest thing will now be to get the student to faculty ratio to the 15:1 that we have been striving for,” Reitz said. “We were at 16:1 last year, but it is going to increase now.”
UConn has already enrolled 250 additional freshman in the class of 2019, and despite funding cuts to basic operations and Next Gen – which has resulted in a significant slowing of the planned faculty hiring – the University will continue to increase class sizes each year, Reitz said.
“We are committed to bringing in more (students) because of the dorms under construction and the promise to the state,” Reitz said. “The Next Gen building projects will not be affected. The money for them comes from a capitol bond. The STEM and honors dorms are coming along fine and will finish on schedule.”
The growing student to faculty ratio will force current professors to teach more sections, as well as faculty who have completed research projects to take on more undergraduate classes, Reitz said.
Although faculty will be increasing at UConn, staff and mid-level administrative positions will be seeing rounds of layoffs in order to compensate for the decreased funding.
For example, the Bursar’s offices at all branches have been merged into a single office based in Storrs. The maintenance crews – which used to be separated into residential and non-residential departments – will now merge as one department.
“A lot of empty positions will just be eliminated instead of refilled,” Reitz said. “When people leave throughout the whole year (2015-2016) there will not be a new hire in their place. There is no guarantee that any position that comes open will be filled.”