CT colleges: Proposed cuts would probably reduce staff and raise tuition

Manchester Community College

Manchester Community College — one of many state-run institutions that leaders say face a combination of tuition increases and staff reductions to meet the demands of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget.

Potentially facing painful cuts in funding from the state, college leaders on Thursday projected what it would take to close their deficits purely with tuition hikes or staff reductions.

To meet the demands of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s newly proposed budget, community colleges would have to raise tuition by as much as 16 percent, a $619 increase for full-time students from Connecticut, officials said. The four regional Connecticut State Universities would have to raise tuition by as much as 8 percent, a $733 increase annually for students.

If only staff reductions were used to reduce costs, the system would have to shrink its workforce by about 360 people, a 6 percent loss of full-time staff. Officials said they would not turn entirely to staff reductions to close a deficit, nor would they look only to tuition.

“It’s probably going to be a combination of all of these,” said Richard Balducci, a member of the Board of Regents, during a budget meeting with college leaders.

“We are going to have to find compromises,” Erika Steiner, the budget chief for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, told the budget committee. “Our institutions over the years have tightened their belts, and so this is going to be more draconian in terms of the actions that we might find ourselves needing to take.”

The officials began considering their options one day after Malloy proposed cutting state support to the 90,000-student college system by $20.6 million to help close the state’s deficit in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

College leaders said they are still digesting the governor’s proposed budget, and what cuts and tuition increases they will recommend to the system’s finance panel. “The term ‘digest’ is interesting. It’s more like indigestion,” said Balducci, a former speaker of the state House of Representatives.

College leaders will also be lobbying the legislature in an effort to limit the size of the governor’s proposed reductions. They estimate the governor’s budget is $38 million less than what they need just to continue providing the same number of programs and courses and to employ the same number of faculty and staff.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult; and tightening the belt doesn’t even begin to cover it,” said Balducci.

The protection from layoffs unionized staff have enjoyed the last several years expires on July 1, though college leaders said they do not intend to lay off staff. Employment reductions would be achieved by not filling positions when people retire or leave for other reasons, they said.

Tuition levels will be decided in March by the board.

Over the last five years, tuition has covered a larger and larger portion of the college system budget. Tuition at Connecticut State Universities has increased by 21 percent over the last five years, while state support has shrunk from covering 44 percent of costs in 2010 to covering 31 percent this fiscal year.