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Seeking student support
Subcommittee recommends no cuts for UConn
By Thomas Becher
March 28, 1997
The General Assembly's appropriations subcommittee on higher education is recommending that the full Appropriations Committee not cut state budget funding for the University, the Connecticut State University system or community- technical colleges.
Its report is being reviewed by the co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee, and within the next month committee members will vote to accept the proposed cuts, reject them or modify them. At the same time, legislative leaders will work for changes in the budget.
The co-chairs of the subcommittee came to campus this week to urge students, faculty and staff to put more pressure on lawmakers as potential budget cuts for higher education are being hashed out at the Capitol.
"The budget process is far from over," state Sen. Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Thompson, co-chair of the subcommittee, said during a Student Union news conference Tuesday attended by students, faculty and staff. "What we learned so far are that the cuts that have been proposed are unacceptable. In my estimation, they would threaten both the quality and accessibility of our state's institutions of higher education. It would mean cuts in programs and personnel."
The proposed state budget would mean a $27 million cut for UConn during the next two fiscal years.
At public hearings in Hartford and at campuses around the state, business leaders have said quality education is absolutely necessary for a good business climate and that an affordable education is crucial for welfare reform and opportunity.
"The cuts would ultimately undermine opportunities, which is what we need in the state," Williams said. "If we cannot provide for them, our own economic future is in jeopardy." For many students, he added, "higher education can be a helicopter out of a burning village."
"We are at the point in the budget process that might be the most critical," she said. "Between now and about a month from now, decisions will be made, amended and made again. If we're all going to battle over this small pot, all of us are going to lose."
State Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, a UConn graduate, added her support.
"Without an education, you're not going to go anywhere," she said. "Without classes being offered and without professors to teach those classes, you're not going to get a good education. Supporting the education budget is supporting the future of our state.
"But," she added, "We have to make darn sure those dollars that are appropriated go for your classes and the professors."
One student, Adam Heller, told the audience about the personal tolls of possible budget cuts or tuition increases.
"I'm on financial aid and need two more years to graduate, and if they cut any of my programs, my financial aid may run out before I have a chance to complete all my courses," he said. "If that happens, I'm done. I won't be in school anymore. Instead of a help to society, people like me would be a burden to society."
Another student, Jan Lavoie, who worked for six years before enrolling four years ago, works part-time and commutes from the Northwest corner of Connecticut. She said further cuts would end her scholastic career despite a self-described love of learning.
"Education is about individual and responsible citizens having the right to fulfill their aspirations," she said. "I've been scraping by to come here, and I can't afford tuition increases."
Williams said he found no problem with perceived administrative bloat at UConn. "The number is in line with other comparable institutions, or even less," he said.
Williams said there is no time to waste.
"There's a long road ahead of us. We need your help and support," he said. "Legislators need to hear from you about the priority of higher education from those who care and those who are affected. It's important to draw the line and say in the middle of the budget process that higher education has to be a priority."