This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

  August 26, 2002

President's Column

Despite a stringent budget, this is a good time to be at UConn

I want to welcome everyone returning to campus and extend a special greeting to people joining us for the first time this fall.

In a few weeks I will present a detailed report on the state of the University, but let me say at this point that it's been quite a summer. In the past two months we exulted in the General Assembly's approval of the Governor's 21st Century UConn initiative, approved a tough but responsible operating budget, prepared to open new buildings and continued work on other major construction projects, and geared up to serve a student body modestly larger, more ambitious and more diverse than even last year's.

Image: President Philip E. Austin

And despite less than optimal national economic conditions, we remained on target to meet, if not exceed, Campaign UConn's $300 million fundraising goal.

The high point was, of course, the legislature's bipartisan endorsement of 21st Century UConn. The vote came at about 2 a.m. on August 13, adding an extra element of drama to a long effort. A responsible governing body does not give approval casually to a $1.3 billion investment, and the dialogue that preceded adoption of the initiative was intelligent and focused, both in committee and on the floor.

But at the end of the day, literally as well as metaphorically, the General Assembly joined Gov. Rowland in recognizing both the University's value to the state and the role our physical transformation plays in our progress on multiple fronts.

Many individuals within and outside the University contributed to the successful advocacy critical to a positive outcome. But the essential, determining factor in this effort was not the quality of our advocacy, but the quality of our program - specifically, our record of progress in attracting and serving students, creating a favorable climate for research, and contributing to the state's economy and quality of life. These achievements are attributable to the contributions of an extraordinary faculty, staff, and student body, all of whom can rightly claim credit for our legislative success.

The news on the operating budget gives less cause for celebration, but I would like to think that it nevertheless reflects our ability to rise to serious challenges. Two weeks ago the Board of Trustees approved a tight, focused $1.16 billion budget for the entire University that responds to the conditions created by reductions in state operating budget support.

Like almost every other state, Connecticut is experiencing a serious revenue shortfall. Thus the reduced level of state funding has not been unanticipated. Nevertheless, the impact is serious. State support represents 40 per cent of our operating budget for the Storrs-based programs (and 19 per cent for the Health Center) and is the largest single element of our resource base. The revised state budget allocated $16.7 million less to the University than the biennial budget adopted a year ago, and serious steps had to be taken to fill the gap.

The result is a University budget that calls for sacrifice but nevertheless maintains our progress in every important area. We implemented a freeze on senior managers' salaries, worked to bring about administrative efficiencies, and reallocated resources to areas of critical need. For the first time in several years, we imposed a mid-year tuition increase that will take effect in the spring, modest by national standards but nevertheless significant to our students and their families. (An in-state undergraduate will be asked to pay $108 more than the previously set rate.)

The adopted spending plan will call for careful shepherding of resources through the next several years. But I believe that it promotes the continuing quality of the academic, research, service (and, at the Health Center, clinical care) programs across the University.

As we enter the 2002-03 academic year we face, in short, a context shaped by a combination of opportunity and challenge. A walk around any of our campuses, a chat with incoming students, or a review of the credentials of the new faculty joining us this term all provide ample evidence that this continues to be an extraordinarily good time to be at the University of Connecticut, and we remain one of the nation's great academic success stories.

We are more than equal to the tasks that lie ahead, and I look forward to working with you as we work to fulfill our goals in the months to come.

Issue Index