Op-Ed: Media imbalance gives too little attention to CSCU

I am concerned by what I perceive as an imbalance in the media attention regarding last week’s Appropriations Committee public hearing on the governor’s proposed budget.

The imbalance I am referencing is the great attention paid to the UConn presence at the hearing over the equally significant Connecticut State College and University (CSCU) presence.

Op-ed submit bugWhile a student from UConn’s basketball team might be more recognizable to the general public than the small delegation of students who traveled an hour and a half from Northwestern Community College — and who waited until 10 p.m. to testify, making their total time devoted for traveling to and waiting at the public hearing approximately seven hours — it seems strange to me that one school should receive greater emphasis than the 17 other public institutions in our state.

The Hartford Courant reported, “The main hearing room at the Legislative Office Building was filled to capacity, and when a legislator asked for the UConn supporters to stand, it seemed as if almost half the room was there for the university, including students and faculty.”

Yet what the Courant did not tell you was that at quarter to ten, more than two thirds of the individuals in the room were there for CSCU.  Nor did they mention that the overflow room that needed to be opened was primarily crowded with students from Gateway, Manchester, and Tunxis Community Colleges and Southern Connecticut State University.

The disparity in the focus on our public institutions of higher education is most concerning, because it is the oft-forgotten CSCU schools which are truly in need at this moment.

While UConn is concerned that if tuition is increased, students may head to private and out-of-state schools, CSCU is concerned that the neediest students in our state will be excluded from education altogether.

Our community college and CSU students can not afford private tuition or the room and board required for schools in our neighboring states.  CSCU students already struggle to attend classes while maintaining their full- and part-time jobs in our local communities.  More CSCU students were born and raised in Connecticut, and more CSCU students will remain here.

The CT Mirror referenced Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, and his expectation that UConn can cope with the proposed budget cut because of their “’significant reserves’ and their ability to enroll more out-of-state students that pay much higher tuition.”

Let me be clear: CSCU lacks such “significant reserves.”  State funding for UConn has gradually increased over the past over the past three years—from $282 million in 2012 to $349 million in 2015 before midyear cuts, and CSCU’s projected state contribution (recall—this is for 17 colleges and universities) in fiscal year ’16 is around $336 million.

Maybe it is just me, but the apparent imbalance in attention paid in the press last week is fairly well representative of the inequality in state support.  The most perplexing part of this story, however, is that CSCU is the lifeblood of Connecticut. Consider:

17 Colleges and Universities vs 1 UConn

~91,184 CSCU students vs ~31,119 UConn students

~96 percent CSCU students are CT residents vs ~75 percent UConn students are CT residents

~80 percent CSCU graduates who remain in CT vs ~67 percent UConn graduates who remain in CT

Perhaps now is the time to right this imbalance.

Sarah Greco is a student at Southern Connecticut State University

 

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