Current Budget 'Tough but Responsible'
By Richard Veilleux
The Board of Trustees on August 13 approved a new budget that addresses a more than $16.7 million cut in the state appropriation for UConn and its Health Center, while preserving programs and enhancing the undergraduate experience, advising, research, diversity, and the environment.
By increasing tuition, freezing the salaries of senior managers, exerting strict position control, implementing administrative efficiencies, and reallocating nearly $20 million, UConn administrators will be able to add in-residence assistant professors and other faculty so students will continue to experience the high quality education they expect and deserve, despite the state budget cuts, Lorraine Aronson, vice president for financial planning and management, told the trustees.
Funds will be shifted to allow the hiring of seven new academic advisors, expand the honors program to accommodate the increasing number of high-achieving students choosing to attend UConn, and better accommodate students with disabilities. Additionally, new funding will allow the enhancement of a range of diversity activities, and additional monies also will be funneled to support environmental protection and public safety activities. Financial aid will increase by nearly $5 million, to ensure that all students who are capable of and want to attend UConn may do so, regardless of their financial situation.
"That said, in every important respect this budget proposal allows us to continue on the upward trajectory that has characterized the University of Connecticut since the mid-1990s.
It provides the resources required to meet students' academic and service needs, allows us to maintain and continue to improve our statewide campuses, helps us address the economic development and other needs of Connecticut's citizens, and targets available resources to a few key areas in critical need of improvement," Austin added.
Through budget cuts - each department was directed last month to find savings worth 3.8 percent of its budget - and reallocations, the budget achieves balance while supporting a number of key programs. These include increased funding for the schools of law, business, and education, and support for three centers of excellence: the Center for Regenerative Biology, Fuel Cell Research Center, and Technology Transfer and Incubator space, the latter a joint project with the UConn Health Center.
Despite the somber tone of the budget - Chancellor John Peterson said nearly 100 positions will be lost, primarily through retirements and attrition - Austin told the trustees there have been many positive developments in UConn's recent past:
"The Health Center weathered a financial storm that affected academic health centers across the nation and emerged with its research, teaching and clinical programs stronger than ever. The regional campuses are making significant progress in serving their surrounding communities. Even in this time of financial market turmoil, our fundraising campaign is on target to achieve its $300 million goal," he said.
The board also took the unusual step of approving a mid-term tuition increase, adding $108 per student in January 2003, to help offset the immediate impact of the legislative cuts. A mid-term increase last occurred in 1992, as the state was coming out of its last recession.
Tuition and fees also will increase 8.7 percent in 2003-04 and 8.75 percent in 2004-05 - increases that were proposed only after detailed analysis and scrutiny convinced officials that UConn will still offer students special value in higher education. UConn's overall cost for an in-state undergraduate will increase slightly less than that, totaling 7.8 percent in 2003-04 and 6.7 percent in 2004-05.
As the nation's economy continues to falter, the size of UConn's increase next year also is less than that planned at more than 40 other public institutions. The cost of a UConn education also will remain less than many of the University's top public competitors charge their in-state students, including Rutgers, the Universities of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maryland, and Pennsylvania State University. And there remains a significant cost differential between what a Connecticut resident pays to attend UConn and what that student would pay to attend an out-of-state public university or any private college.