The governor's budget didn't spare cuts to both of the state's college systems, UConn and the Connecticut State College and Universities.
In the case of UConn, it faces close to $30 million in overall reductions, while the CSCU system faces $38 million.
"We’ll manage the cut that he’s given us but it’s very worrisome," said UConn President Susan Herbst during testimony to the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee, Wednesday.
Mark Ojakian, the President of the CSCU system, took a proactive step Wednesday by announcing a hiring freeze for all campuses.
“I think it’s important not only to send a message that budget cuts are serious but that we are not going to be staffing up at a time when we need be cutting and looking at costs throughout the system," Ojakian said.
But new Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Cathy Osten said as the state tackles a $1.5 billion budget deficit in 2018, and a $1.7 billion deficit in 2019, every agency and institution will face heightened scrutiny.
“I think higher education, and any part of the budget needs to be looked at the same. We have to make sure we can afford what we put forward and that will be in conjunction with expenses and those two numbers need to balance and that’s what I’m going to look at.”
UConn Student Body President Daniel Byrd made the argument to lawmakers that UConn is as much an economic development as it is a taxpayer retention tool.
“Yes, we need to maintain our academic programs but my case at least to the state is that this state is in dire economic straits, we have people fleeing this state, I think we’re the number one state in terms of people who don’t want to live here. If you want people to stay here and pay taxes, you have to invest in UConn," he said.
Ojakian also discussed how he intends to take a deep look into the way his system spends money across all departments.
“Everything needs to be on the table. If you look around the country, with systems that have had similar challenges, you will see consolidations, closures, mergers, shared services. We are trying to learn from those as best practices and be sensitive to the state that we live in which is Connecticut,” Ojakian said.
Osten said such moves won't do many favors in a struggling state.
“I’m glad they’re recognizing the economic state of the State of Connecticut and I appreciate them acting proactively on a piece of it, but that does not solve our whole problem and we need to look at this comprehensively," Osten said. “Higher education is important, but it’s not any more important than any other piece of the budget.”