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  February 20, 2001

Top Officials Make Case
For Increased Funding

Gov. John G. Rowland's proposed biennial budget could reverse the progress the University has made over the past few years, University officials told the Joint Committee on Appropriations last Wednesday. Testifying before the committee on a day reserved for higher education, President Philip E. Austin said the budget leaves little room for the University to continue its transformation into one of the best public universities in the nation, and has the potential to curtail programs and cut short the gains made by the $1 billion UConn 2000 program.

Here are excerpts from testimony by Austin, Chancellor John D. Petersen, and Peter J. Deckers, executive vice president for health affairs:

Philip E. Austin
... The proposed budget, which leaves the University $10.4 million short of current services funding in FY 02, is predicated upon assumptions that bear review. One is that there has been a real increase in funding on the order of 47 percent over the past eight years. The second is that the University as a whole has a surplus, or reserves, or simply money in the bank totaling $57 million - $33 million at the Storrs-based programs and $24 million at the Health Center.

... We are below where we were in 1991 in terms of the actual purchasing power of the state appropriation and we do not have a savings account to pay for operations. To follow the course of the proposed budget would have serious adverse programmatic implications for the many constituencies the University of Connecticut serves...

What I respectfully suggest should be the fundamental issue at stake in your consideration of the budget ... is the issue of investment.

Six years ago, in economic times less favorable in Connecticut than those today, this legislature and this governor made a courageous decision to invest $1 billion not just in new buildings for an old University but, on a far more fundamental level, in the creation of a revitalized, rigorous, exciting institution of education and research that is worthy of the people of this state...

The goals and objectives that lie at the heart of UConn 2000 - and that lie at the heart of your concurrent investment in the Health Center, so clearly underlined last year - are being met and exceeded.

1. The General Assembly and the Governor wanted to halt the outflow of talented young people from Connecticut - the "brain drain" that placed us second among the 50 states, after Alaska, in the proportion of high school students who pursue a college education elsewhere and in large numbers never return here to live. ...

Thanks to your investment we have not only turned the corner; we have turned the tide. In the last three years, freshman enrollment at Storrs has increased 29 percent. About a quarter of those freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school class and most were in the top 25 percent. Average SAT scores are up by about 30 points. The proportion of minority freshmen is up 51 percent (and 16 percent of our undergraduate student body is now from underrepresented groups, as is 12 percent of our graduate population). Among this fall's freshman class were 32 high school valedictorians and 28 salutatorians.

At UConn in the year 2001, excellence and access are not competing goals. They go hand-in-hand.

These bright students will receive an excellent education, graduate from the University, and for the most part devote their careers to Connecticut's corporations, schools, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations. The state will be richer for their presence in ways both quantifiable and beyond economic measure.

2. The General Assembly and the Governor wanted UConn to be a research university at a level of national and international quality. In part this was and is because the expansion of knowledge is valuable on its own terms, but in equal or greater measure it was and is because our state's leaders recognize research as critical to Connecticut's economic development and quality of life.

UConn does not endeavor to be all things to all people, and this particularly pertains to research. At the Storrs-based programs and at the Health Center we have identified key areas of excellence in which we seek to build on existing strength. Some, like the Health Center's signature programs ... address human needs in areas where there are excellent opportunities for external support. Others, like our work in biotechnology, place us on the cutting-edge of knowledge generation and create limitless possibilities for the institution, our students, and our faculty. Still others, notably including our emphasis on information technology, meet an immediate Connecticut need and cement our ties to the corporate community in the state. And in a few carefully selected areas, our work is of an importance that transcends both economic assessment and state borders: specifically, we are committed to playing a major role in the study of human rights and have engaged in a vital partnership with the African National Congress and other institutions in the Republic of South Africa in advancement of that objective.

Here too the results are impressive. Across the University, external funding for research across the University has increased from about $95 million in 1995 to about $116 million in the last fiscal year - and I cannot overemphasize the importance of UConn 2000 facilities and the Health Center's new research building to that achievement. Faculty publication is strong. Several of our achievements, notably including our faculty's work in biotechnology, have attracted worldwide notice, which is useful primarily as a tool for attracting talented new faculty and generating significant new grants.

3. The General Assembly and the Governor wanted to increase private support for our public university. ... The numbers speak for themselves. Annual donations totaled $8.2 million in FY 1995; in FY 2000, they came to $37 million ... Our endowment assets, which stood at $50 million in 1995, are now approximately $221 million.

... Private investment at that level of magnitude is not simply a function of loyalty or generosity, though our donors possess both qualities in great measure. It is instead the outcome of a rational assessment of our goals, our level of performance, and the State's commitment of ongoing support for our transformation. For private donors, UConn 2000 was a signal that the University of Connecticut was a worthy target of investment - a place where private funds would supplement, not supplant, the state's commitment. The budget proposal now before you sends the opposite signal and, as we embark on a major capital campaign, it may well yield the opposite result.

If this is true of our private donors, it is doubly true of our corporate collaborators. ...

4. The General Assembly and the Governor were and are eager to make the University a key partner to Connecticut's business community, utilizing our combined resources to maintain the state's economic vitality.

Our goals in this area - or more precisely your goals for us - are straightforward. We should be the institution that Connecticut's corporations look to first when they seek to hire people who meet their needs. We should be the logical partner in areas of basic as well as applied research. We should be a prime source of in-service training for personnel in management as well as operations.

Investments (such as those made in the University by Aetna Financial Services, United Technologies, GE Fund, GE Capital and GE Industrial Systems last fall) are not the product of sentimental attachment. They result from a careful calculation, by people who are major contributors to Connecticut's economic well being, that from among the many potential collaborators UConn represents the best opportunity for success. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important continued, reliable state support is to the maintenance of that perception.

... The University of Connecticut represents a target of investment that is already yielding significant returns and holds the promise of producing greater returns still. I can think of no more shortsighted policy than to deny the University the support it needs to continue its progress.

John D. Petersen
Connecticut's most important natural resource is its human capital. Our public trust is to develop this resource wisely, for the benefit of the state, as well as our students. Continuing to attract larger numbers of Connecticut's young people to spend their college years - and hopefully then seek employment - here has been an identified priority of the state ... We (also) continue to contribute to the economic well being of the state by strengthening our position as a world-class research institution, and disseminating education and training to all of the citizens of the state through outreach and non-credit programs. ...

Without additions to the proposed budget, the effect on the main University of Connecticut campus and the regional campuses, will be a curtailment of our programs and services, and delay or abandonment of some of the important initiatives that we have already undertaken. ...

While our first priority in our budget request must be adequate funding of our operating budget, in order to realize our full potential of service to the state of Connecticut, we also need funding of a number of targeted initiatives ... (that) fall broadly into four categories: research initiatives in such "high tech" areas as molecular and cell biology and biotechnology; health and social services related areas; education and training in K-12 or non-credit higher education; and information technology and engineering. ... These areas share two common attributes: they build on existing areas of excellence and expertise within the University, and they are "cutting edge" in terms of our evolving society, with its technological focus. ...

Funding of UConn's ongoing programs and strategic initiatives is a wise financial investment in the state's development. UConn is already stepping forward to meet the state's economic and workforce development needs. In order to be fully effective in meeting these demands, we will need additional resources. ...

Peter J. Deckers
A year ago, the Health Center was facing a very uncertain future. We were experiencing a significant operating deficit, our patients were wondering about our future, our nationally acclaimed education product was jeopardized by the declining funding from our clinical enterprise and cuts in federal support, and our research enterprise was treading water, as we waited for the fifth year of strategic plan funding. The question before the General Assembly then was: Is the UConn Health Center worth saving? To my everlasting appreciation, your answer was yes. In the package you approved last fall, you filled our deficit of $12.5 million for fiscal year 2000, filled our projected $4.4 million deficit for fiscal year 01, and provided an additional $3.1 million to move our research enterprise forward.

We ... cut costs last year by $12.8 million, with the annualized impact adding an additional $7.7 million in FY 01. To meet this year's budget we implemented an additional $5.2 million in cost reductions and revenue enhancements for a total of $25.7 million. All of our financial indicators are moving in a positive direction and to date we have closed every single month in FY 01 ahead of budget.

Your auditors, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, stated that our strategic plan was the first one they had observed nationally that tied together the education, research and clinical components of an academic health center. The key ... is in the funding and implementation of the plan. The result was four Signature Programs: Brain and Human Behavior; Cancer, built on immunology and genetics; Musculoskeletal, built on bone biology; and Connecticut Health. To get these efforts jump-started, we have reallocated the necessary funds internally ...

All of that is threatened by the Governor's budget proposal. If implemented in its current form, we will be returned to the days of deficits, of being unable to invest in our research and educational future. The only positive note in the proposal is the increase in Medicaid funding for the John Dempsey Hospital. Although we are appreciative of the boost - we estimate that it will bring approximately $2 million in additional revenue - but that amount barely covers the current services cut that is also in the governor's proposal. I am sorry to have to say this, because I thought we had forged a long-term partnership last year. If you will continue to invest in us through this biennium, we will have had the time to mature our Signature Programs and our research efforts to the point where will no longer need the additional subsidy. ... "