State budget cuts could close UConn campuses - WFSB 3 Connecticut

State budget cuts could close UConn campuses

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Gov. Dannel Malloy looks on as UConn president Susan Herbst says big short term cuts will hurt us for a long time. (WFSB) Gov. Dannel Malloy looks on as UConn president Susan Herbst says big short term cuts will hurt us for a long time. (WFSB)
GROTON, CT (WFSB) -

With 87 budget less days behind the state, Democrats and the governor blasted cuts in the Republican budget after he spoke one of the University of Connecticut campuses on Monday afternoon. 

UConn is at the center of the budget cuts. UConn officials, students, and faculty have been speaking out against a recently passed Republican state budget.

They said that if Gov. Dannel Malloy signs it, they'll be out $300 million. It's a funding hole they claim the school won't be able to bear. Painful cuts to programs and staff would have to be made.

"This is a very tough time for the state's economy. Many of you understand that," UConn President Susan Hebrst said. "UConn is absolutely part of the Shared sacrifice."

Malloy, who has said he'd veto that very budget, joined with Hebrst to stop cuts, which what they said would cut programs and raise tuition.

"In all likeliness this campus could be on the chopping block," Malloy said. "And I don't say that lightly."

 The Democrats budget has $100 million in cuts while the GOP budget has more than double that.

UConn at Avery Point is a regional campus and is considered an economic driver and a pipeline for jobs at Electric Boat as well as other large companies.

Student Collin Bakken is pursuing a degree in actuary science.

"It's nice to have Pfizer down the road for an internship over the summer, maybe chemical engineering," Bakken said. "A UConn education is a lot cheaper here. Kids can commute. So it's good to get an education at a cheaper price."

Ever since the GOP budget passed both chambers. Democrats have been attacking it.  The GOP has defended some of the cuts and said while painful, the alternative would be cuts to programs for the elderly and the disabled.

Just minutes after the event on the Groton campus, the Republican Senate Leader blasted Herbst.

“Over the years, President Herbst has shown an inability to properly manage UConn’s finances. She has tried to hand out raises at all levels at the same time she increased tuition – a move that resulted in the legislature for the first time in decades refusing to accept her proposed labor contracts. She has spent money exorbitantly on speakers and salaries, and on presidential mansions and administrative bloat. UConn administrative expenses have been shown to drastically exceed other schools, for example in 2013 it was reported that UConn came in third among the nation’s research universities for spending on administration. We have also seen UConn Health Center use taxpayer dollars for an unnecessary hospital expansion that has driven UCHC further into deficit. If UConn’s first decision when faced with these reductions is to target students and facilities like Avery Point, President Herbst should resign. That clearly is not the way to manage the nearly $1 billion provided in the state budget, not even including bonding, which passed the legislature with bipartisan support," state Sen. Len Fasano said in a statement on Monday. 

Fasano told Eyewitness News Herbst should be able to make cuts without raising tuition or closing any campus. If not, she should resign.

"We have given UConn billions and billions of dollars over the years, rightly so," Fasano said. "And we have invested a lot of money in UConn, but when the state is strapped, these next two years. All we are asking UConn to do over these next two years is pull reigns and make some efficiencies. "

Fasano said it's unfair given all the money the state has given to UConn that they are complaining and said UConn has one of the highest administration costs of any state university. Fasano said that has to change.

“UConn has alternative ways to attain funding or reduce administrative costs, including new ways made available to them for the first time in this budget. But the disabled and the elderly do not have that ability. In making these cuts, this budget restores local education funding for k-12 schools, holds towns like Groton harmless to cuts, and fully funds services such as Care4Kids, Meals on Wheels, employment opportunities for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. If reductions are not made to UConn, where does the governor and President Herbst propose the state cut instead? Do they want to see devastating cuts hit k-12 education, the elderly and safety net services? Or do they think residents should be taxed more? Those are the options our state is facing. UConn has to be part of the solution," state Senator Heather Somers (R-Groton) said in a statement on Monday. 

Eyewitness News was told bi-partisan talks are set for Tuesday. 

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