Student, Educators Push Back Against Budget Cuts

More than 100 people testified before the state Appropriations Committee on Tuesday night arguing against cuts to higher education, which were announced as part of the governor's biennial budget last week.

Opponents said the cuts will force colleges to raise tuition or slash the quality of education. Across all of higher education, including community colleges, state schools and the University of Connecticut system, the governor proposed nearly $150 million in cuts over the next two years.

"If the money is not coming from the state, it's got to come from somewhere, and that's likely to be the students," said UConn student and elected member of the board of trustees Michael Daniels.

"I think that's the thing we're hearing, is affordability is really critical," explained State Sen. Beth Bye.

In addition to the already looming cuts, agencies are further bracing themselves further after the Office of Policy Management announced a miscalculation Tuesday, meaning an additional $55 million will have to go.

Administrators of higher education said minorities, low-income and middle class students will be hardest hit.

"Eighteen-hundred new low-income students would not receive state financial aid next year, and about 5,000 students per year," said Judy Greiman, president of Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges.

Students also testified that cuts will have a negative impact on the state in the long run.

"Let me tell you, students will hurt," said Southern Connecticut State University graduate student Sarah Greco. "Even if it's only a few hundred dollars in increase for my personal school bill, there is a fallout. That few hundred dollars means dipping into savings, and the difference between my husband and I being able to purchase a home and invest in the economy of Connecticut through additional taxes."

While no one argued the value of higher education, State Rep. Whit Betts asked the $1.5 billion question: "The problem still remains for everyone here, how do we compensate for a shortfall?"

"What I would argue to you is don't cut the opportunity for Connecticut students to go to Connecticut universities whether they're private or public," said University of Hartford President Walter Harrison.

There are still seven days left of budget hearings, and with a total of $600 million in proposed cuts, many more agencies will make its case for why it can't take the hit.

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