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State leaders spar over impact of proposed budget on CT's higher ed system

 Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Terrence Cheng
CT-N video.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Terrence Cheng.

Leaders of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system are warning of dire consequences unless they get more money than currently proposed in the next state budget plan.

CSCU officials said Monday that if the current state budget proposal were to go into effect, it would force the layoffs of 650 full-time employees and could necessitate annual tuition increases of as much as 5%.

“The proposed budget would be devastating to CSCU,” said Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Terrence Cheng. “This means fewer services for students, such as mental health counseling and academic advising, at a time when they need it the most.”

CSCU is made up of four state universities, 12 community colleges, and Charter Oak State College.

Central Connecticut State University student Anasophia Rodriquez said the campus' support staff has been very welcoming and she appreciates that some of them are from Puerto Rico, like she is.

“I have to work two jobs to be able to finish up, to pay for my school because my mom cannot help me,” Rodriquez said. “So having Central with such a low tuition is very important for me, because if not, I wouldn't be able to pay for my school.”

But Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget office said student enrollment has been steadily declining for the last decade and that schools need to get their spending in line with demand from students.

“Governor Lamont has demonstrated a very clear commitment to appropriately funding our state colleges and universities,” said Jeffrey Beckham, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, in a statement. “His proposal for the next biennium represents a 27% increase in baseline appropriations and a 55% increase in total state funding, worth $334 million, over when he took office.”

Cheng said more than 3,000 part time jobs would also be eliminated, if the state budget takes effect as it is now.

UConn has also expressed concerns about its level of state funding in the current budget. The governor's office and state lawmakers expect to negotiate the state budget over the next few weeks. A final version has yet to be approved.

Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.

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