Big cuts proposed for state universities and community colleges in Connecticut
State university and community college leaders announced big cuts on Wednesday. It's part of a "Deficit Mitigation Plan" designed to erase a $140 million budget shortfall.
RISING COSTS, DECLINING ENROLLMENT
The Western Connecticut State University campus in Danbury can feel a little lonely. Like other state schools, enrollment and revenue are both down – leaving students worried about the future.
"The funding really isn't good, and they don't think it's going to last more than a few years," said Elian Mateus, a WestConn student from Port Chester, New York.
To close the budget gap, college presidents presented deep cuts to Connecticut State Colleges and Universities regents on Wednesday. Many campuses will have fewer classes, as well as fewer faculty and staff.
Outside the meeting, unions accused Connecticut lawmakers of shortchanging students in the latest state budget.
"They're cutting IT support, computer science support, tutoring services, enrollment services," said Cody Zimmerman, a student at Tunxis Community College in Farmington.
While the new budget increased state funding to CSCU and the University of Connecticut, overall funding dropped because one-time federal pandemic funds ran out.
TUITION STILL RISING
And while colleges cut, students are paying more.
This year, tuition went up 3% at state universities, which include WestConn, Southern, Central and Eastern. (UConn is governed by a separate board.) Community colleges, which just merged into a single entity called Connecticut State Community College, saw a 5% increase.
"Only a few hundred dollars," said Rakim Grant, a student at Southern Connecticut State University. "But that's a few thousand after the lifetime of my loans, which translates to hundreds of more hours on the job."
CSCU president Terrence Cheng said the cuts, while painful, are designed to avoid future tuition hikes.
"I completely empathize with our students," he said. "The reality is that we are in a certain financial situation right now."
WAYS TO SAVE MONEY
School presidents said they are trying several ideas to turn things around – like cutting underused courses, having campuses share professors and partnering with private industry to train students.
At WestConn, school leaders want to invest in new STEM programs to fill growing tech industry jobs in Connecticut and the nearby Hudson Valley of New York.
But students warned that too much belt-tightening could drive applicants away.
"I have heard a few people saying they're probably planning on transferring," said Mateus.
"If there's very less classes and if there's very few buildings, what are the majors that the students are going to be in?" said Daniel Joseph, a WestConn student from Norwalk.