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Governor Rowland presents budget,
debate begins
February 15, 1999

Gov. John G. Rowland has recommended an appropriation for UConn that is better than past years but falls short of the support needed to continue the University's progress toward becoming one of the finest public universities in the nation.

The package, presented in his February 10 budget address, meets most of UConn's current services funding requests but fails to address officials' requests to continue enhancing UConn's academic and strategic initiatives, and provides insufficient funding to maintain new buildings funded through UConn 2000.

The governor also asked faculty to increase their course load - a step that would represent a budget cut of about $600,000 in the first year and $1.7 million in the second year - and recommended a two-year salary freeze for UConn administrators.

The governor made no recommendation to change the management or funding for UConn 2000 programs, however, and he also called for a continuation of the tuition freeze that legislators approved last year.

"The governor's budget proposal is in many respects a welcome statement of support for higher education in general and the University of Connecticut in particular," President Philip E. Austin said shortly after the televised budget address.

"We are pleased by the governor's recommendation to maintain state funding to cover the increasing cost of providing higher education to Connecticut students, and his vote of confidence in our management of UConn 2000. The University's transformation has been dramatic and profound and is a major achievement for all the people of the state," he said.

"The governor's budget recognizes our progress and gives us a strong foundation for positive discussion with legislators and others over the next several weeks," he added.

Austin said he was concerned, however, that the proposal did not provide funding for strategic initiatives at the Health Center, Storrs, or at the regional campuses, and that a lack of funding to maintain new buildings could lead to their deterioration.

He said the state's prior investment in the University through UConn 2000, is having precisely the effect UConn officials and legislators had hoped for, and private donations are at unprecedented levels.

Further strategic initiatives are necessary, Austin said, "in order to maintain our momentum as we move quickly to national prominence. We are eager to build upon our great success in recruiting outstanding additions to our faculty, dramatically improving philanthropic and grant support, and attracting Connecticut's strongest students to their flagship University."

The governor's budget represents less than the University requested. UConn officials requested $171 million for the main campus in Storrs and the regional campuses for the first year of the biennium and $179.5 million for the second year. Rowland's budget recommends $166.5 million and $172.3 million respectively. The Health Center's budget request was $74 million for year one and $82 million for year two of the biennium.

The governor's recommended budget for the Health Center was $70.5 million and $72.8 million respectively for the two years. Health Center officials said more than $11 million in strategic initiatives are excluded from the package.

Carl Schaefer, president of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, questioned the governor's recommendation that 75 percent of instructors increase their course load to four courses per semester.

"Our view is that the budget recommended is based upon outdated information. It ignores the distinction between a research university and a fundamentally teaching university," said Schaefer, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

He said faculty at UConn are responsible for much more than teaching, including research, advising graduate students and counseling undergraduates.

Richard Veilleux