September 18, 2017
Dear CSCU Community,
Early Saturday morning the Connecticut General Assembly passed a budget that intends to cut approximately $93M from the CSCU system over the next two years. Funding for developmental education is completely eliminated, while the Roberta Willis scholarship fund is phased out. In and of themselves these cuts would devastate our system, however, this comes after 3 years of budget reductions and rescissions have left us operating with $66M less than in 2015. The combination of these proposed cuts and the elimination of state financial aid would make our institutions more costly and less accessible to the 85,000 students we serve, particularly those who are funding their own education, are first generation, and underrepresented students of color.
This amounts to an unprecedented denial of access and support to public higher education students in Connecticut. The impact to developmental education would deny students the opportunity to address deficiencies in their basic math and English skills necessary for college success. While the phasing out of the Roberta Willis scholarship fund would deny access to higher education for almost 15,000 of the state’s neediest students. This budget would force severe cutbacks and elimination of essential services such as academic advising, counseling, physical and mental health referrals. All are among the most important services in helping keep our students enrolled and completing their degrees on time.
Our system has been proactively pursuing structural changes in order to remain sustainable so we can continue to provide our students with the high quality education they deserve. We have always been willing to do our part to be responsible stewards of the hard earned investment of our students, their families and the state’s taxpayers.
Our institutions rely on two primary sources of funding; state support and student tuition. The reality we are facing is one of extremely limited options. We would be forced to consider passing on the financial burden to our students through increased tuition and fees. This would have a chilling effect and put higher education out of the reach of even more Connecticut students.
Finally, the cumulative impact of all of these proposed reductions would be a state that is less prepared to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow. Over 95% of our students are from Connecticut and stay here after they graduate. At a time when Connecticut’s major employers are increasing their demand for a highly skilled workforce, we must continue to educate students interested in manufacturing, healthcare and information technology. With increasing competition among states to lure companies away, how will Connecticut convince employers to stay and grow, or move here if we cannot produce the workforce they will need in the future?
As you may have heard, the Governor intends to veto this budget. However, we do not know what the outcome of this budget process will be and there is too much at stake not to take action. That is why I am asking all of you to help me advocate to our state legislators. All of us need to do our part to contact our state legislators and tell them how damaging these cuts would be for our system. Most of all I urge our students to reach out. Students and the families that support them are not numbers on a budget line item. They are residents and taxpayers of our state working extremely hard to pursue higher education.
Please use this link to find out who your legislator is and how you can contact them: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp
Thank you as always for your continued support of CSCU.
Mark E. Ojakian
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU)