12 at the Capitol: UConn students protest Gov. Lamont’s budget cut

UConn’s new president has warned they could raise tuition by $3,000, but the Lamont administration said school leaders aren’t telling the whole story.

John Craven

Feb 15, 2023, 10:16 PM

Updated 469 days ago

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Several busloads of University of Connecticut students walked out of class Wednesday and headed to the state Capitol – to protest cuts in Gov. Ned Lamont’s new budget. UConn’s new president has warned they could raise tuition by $3,000, but the Lamont administration said school leaders aren’t telling the whole story.
“It's already expensive for me to be here,” said Abrielis Mejia, a UConn freshman from New York City. “Adding, like, another $3,000? That's going to be a little rough.”
Close to a thousand students rallied on the Capitol’s north steps, accusing Lamont of short-changing higher education.
“Governor, my family and so many families just like mine came to this state for the education,” said University Senate Speaker Irene Soteriou. “So please don't make that the reason that we leave.”
Under the governor's budget proposal, baseline state funding actually goes up – as it has for many years. But Lamont’s plan pares down one-time federal relief money, resulting in $195 million less overall.
“I think they got some misinformation. I think they were told that we're cutting funding for the University of Connecticut,” Lamont said Wednesday. "There was an extra boost in federal money last year. In this case, to keep the center open. In the case of UConn, they had dorms that were empty, they were doing testing; they were doing vaccinations. So that money doesn't have to be replaced because the nature of that emergency is over."
After the rally, state lawmakers grilled UConn President Radenka Maric. She said the school is saddled with paying higher salaries and benefits that legislators approved last year. And although Lamont’s budget takes so-called “fringe” benefit costs off UConn’s hands, it also alters other funding to make up for the change.
Some Republicans suggested, instead of threatening tuition hikes, administrators should trim fat from the school's budget. For example, UConn athletics ran a $53 million deficit last year, including a massive payout to fired men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie. Also, UConn’s last two presidents are still collecting approximately half a million dollars in salaries.
“We are looking at what we can cut, how we can improve efficiency,” Maric told the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. “But to go this magnitude, it's not possible to happen overnight.”
In addition to tuition increases, Maric also threatened to pull UConn basketball games from Hartford’s XL Center, according to The Daily Campus student newspaper.
But even some students at the rally said UConn administrators need to look in the mirror.
"We kind of have conflicting opinions on the UConn -- like, the people running UConn -- as well,” said River Granniss, a senior from Clinton. “There were counterprotests at the bus line-up for the way the administration is handling funds.”
The state budget is not a done deal. Lamont and top lawmakers will negotiate it over the next four months.


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