UConn's President on Budget Cuts: ‘Stakes Cannot Be Higher'

The University of Connecticut's (UConn) President Susan Herbst responded publicly to the Republican budget proposal that passed through the General Assembly with Democrat votes in the early morning last Saturday.

She said the university was prepared for some significant cuts, but said the GOP proposal is simply untenable.

"Of course, we have to be cut, we would never act like UConn is immune to what is going in the larger economy,” Herbst said.

The Republican budget, which unexpectedly passed the General Assembly, essentially tripled the overall cut proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy and legislative Democrats.

According to UConn, the combined reduction would reach $124.6 million in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and increase to $184.1 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The combined cut of more than $310 million, Herbst said, amounts to funding changes that would fundamentally transform the university.

In addition to the threat of closing campuses, shuttering colleges, and laying off non-SEBAC covered employees, Herbst said dropping Division 1 Athletics, “had to be discussed.”

Republicans frame the debate over funding for UConn as being a battle between municipal aid grants and social services and higher education. The Connecticut State College and University System, separate from UConn, also faces drastic cuts.

“Budgets are priorities and we think our social services and our municipalities need the money,” said Sen. Len Fasano, one of the architects of the GOP budget during an interview Monday. “UConn has got a huge foundation and has many ways of raising money where other people don’t have those resources.”

Herbst said she has a great working relationship with Fasano, and said she appreciates how difficult the budget situation is, but said he is mistaken when it comes to the use of grants and federal funding. She said those funding sources can’t be increased and then simply diverted for overall operating expenses and financial aid. She said those grants need to be used for a specific purpose, like medical or other research or continuation of study.

Fasano said some of the talk coming from Herbst regarding their financial situation, and threats regarding Husky athletics is unfounded.

“That’s a typical scare tactic to try to get people up in arms in the state of Connecticut,” Fasano said. “She knows and I know she’s never going to do any of that stuff.”

Governor Dan Malloy has pledged to vet the GOP budget but said he still intends to veto it and wants bipartisan negotiations for a budget to restart.

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