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The state budget the Appropriations Committee endorsed for 2023-24 and 2024-25 falls $109 million short of the cost needed to maintain current services at Connecticut’s state colleges and universities in the first fiscal year and $225 million below in the second.
In rough numbers, those represent gaps of 10% and 20%, respectively.
And that’s the most favorable budget scenario on the table to date. Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan for regional state universities, community colleges and the online Charter Oak State College for the next two fiscal years is $82.5 million leaner.
In response to the proposed budget shortfalls, the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system prepared a mitigation plan for the Board of Regents for Higher Education, which oversees the system.
The board won’t act on any plan until after the next state budget has been approved.
How could the CSCU respond to the proposed budget shortfalls? Here’s what to know.
Layoffs and job cuts
The regional university and college system could eliminate more than 3,500 full- and part-time jobs — including 654 layoffs.
The mitigation plan includes laying off 13% of all full-time staff, including 196 faculty. Under the plan, job cuts also would affect buildings and ground, public safety, clerical services, administration, financial aid staff and athletics.
Ben Barnes, the system’s chief financial officer, said the plan includes eliminating 2,916 or four out of every 10 part-time positions.
The regents already have approved a 3% hike in tuition and fees for state university students for the 2023-24 academic year. The deficit mitigation plan under review retains that increase and adds a 5% hike in 2024-25.
Under this scenario, students would be paying, on average, $13,405 per year, which is $1,005 higher than the current average.
The mitigation plan also calls for 5% tuition and fees hikes for community college students in each of the next two fiscal years. This would push the per-student average to $5,182 by 2024-25, which is $482 higher than the current level.
Many class sections undoubtedly could be eliminated, while those that remain could become larger. Shrinking course offerings could complicate students’ efforts to graduate on time.
Close to 70% of the system’s part-time workforce — four-tenths of which would be eliminated under the plan — involves lecturers, other adjunct faculty, tutors and other academic support services, Barnes said.
Barnes said no deficit mitigation plans currently involve closing campuses or colleges. But when pressed, he added that could not be ruled out. “It is a legitimate concern.”
Terrence Cheng, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, said there would also be cuts to different types of student services, including mental health resources.
What about UConn?
UConn, which is not part of the CSCU system, has not released a formal deficit mitigation plan since the budget proposals were released, but officials have warned it could face staffing cuts as well.