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February 14, 2005

Governor’s Budget For
UConn Raises Concerns

Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Feb. 9 announced a biennial budget that would appropriate nearly $18 million less than UConn officials had requested to maintain current services for the University’s Storrs-based programs. The governor also recommended that the University freeze tuition at its current level for the 2005-06 academic year, a proposal that would cost the University an additional $7.8 million next year.

The governor’s Feb. 9 budget address to the General Assembly was the first step in a process that will play out during the next four months. The 2005 session is scheduled to conclude June 8.

“We will make a concerted effort to help members of the General Assembly appreciate the impact the proposed spending reductions – if left unchanged – would have on the University,” Alvin Wilson, UConn’s director of governmental relations, said after the speech.

Like Storrs, the increases in the current services request for the Health Center for fiscal year 2006 and 2007, were cut by approximately half. Rell’s budget, however, essentially matches the funding request for the Health Center’s work with the state Department of Correction, a program that provides medical, dental and mental health services to inmates in the state’s prisons, jails, and halfway houses.

“We are grateful the governor recognized the value of the services the Health Center provides to the state’s prison population, and our efforts to control the costs of those services,” Wilson added.

The proposal for the Storrs-based programs was not positive, however. In addition to the proposed tuition freeze, the governor’s budget provides no funding for the University’s request to add up to 150 faculty during the next five years to manage UConn’s increasing student population, nor does it provide funding for the highly successful matching grant program, which has helped the UConn Foundation leverage gifts and donations to the University.

“UConn is one of the state’s greatest success stories, yet our initial review of the proposed budget indicates that no state agency took the kind of hit that public higher education received,” said Lorraine Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer. “I don’t understand the logic in that, especially considering the state has been receiving remarkable returns on its investment in the University.”

The proposed tuition freeze, which would defer a planned 5.61 percent increase already approved by the Board of Trustees for the next academic year, would cost the University $7.8 million in revenues. The budget proposal does not cover the loss.

“An unfunded tuition freeze would merely delay the inevitable,” Aronson said. “We are being asked to use one-time savings for ongoing expenses. A tuition freeze in 2006 would just exacerbate our revenue problems, and force us to increase tuition in future years by larger amounts.”

Officials also defended the current tuition rate.

“Our affordability is demonstrated by the record numbers of applicants, enrollments, diversity, and the academic achievement of our students,” Aronson said. “Our in-state tuition rate places us in the lower half of public institutions in New England, yet we are New England’s top-ranked public university.

“In fact, our rate is in the lower half of institutions in the entire Northeast, and we are one of the top-ranked universities in the entire region,” she said. “The evidence is crystal clear: UConn is an outstanding value. We offer a quality education at an affordable price.”