Trying to close a budget gap of roughly a half billion dollars could mean deep cuts to college campuses in Connecticut.
That's the picture University of Connecticut president painted while addressing lawmakers on Wednesday morning.
While laying out his budget, Gov. Dannel Malloy said cuts would need to be made all over.
But UConn President Susan Herbst said for them, losing millions in state funding would be felt far and wide, from the main campus in Storrs, to regional ones in Waterbury.
"I can stay home and save money for a couple of years, rather than pay the full room and board at Storrs,” UConn freshman Jordan Meisinger said.
Meisinger, of Bristol, said he likes the intimate setting of UConn's Waterbury campus. Herbst is warning lawmakers there could be big changes, thanks to the governor's proposed budget.
"My fear, our fear is that this cycle will grow worse, resulting in a shrinking faculty, the closure of academic programs or departments – or even entire schools,” Herbst said.
Right now, UConn gets roughly 30 percent of its budget from the state. But under the proposal, the state would cut more than 5 percent in direct funding to colleges and universities, meaning UConn would lose $31 million.
"I think it’s unfair to us as students to take money away from education,” Matt Summa, of Waterbury, said.
This comes just two months after UConn signed off on a plan to raise its tuition by more than $3,000 for in-state students and $4,000 for out-of-state students. That increase would bring in just under $13 million.
Now students said they are wondering if they'll end up paying more while seeing fewer benefits.
"Less professors, if they cut them, maybe even taking less people to the branch campuses,” Meisinger said.
In addition to the main campus in Storrs, UConn has regional branches for Greater Hartford, Waterbury, Torrington, Avery Point and Stamford.
"It very likely means we'll have to close regional campuses, significantly reducing financial aid and cutting sports, sports that you love, among other possibilities,” Herbst said.
That's something Waterbury resident Matt Summa said he doesn't want to think about.
"It’s nice to have small classrooms at this level, just to get you started and the possibility you might lose that is scary,” Summa said.
A spokesperson for the governor said even with the proposed cuts, UConn would still receive more than $360 million.
"We need to be smart about government spending – Connecticut needs to live within its means, just like families do. The reality of this recovery means we can't budget based on what we want to spend, but instead must budget based on what we actually have,” the spokesperson told Eyewitness News.
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