Derek Torrellas – Special to The Southern News –
In December, the state universities of Connecticut were informed that in light of a budget deficit, the state university block grant was targeted for reduction.
“For the long term health of the state,” said Professor Michael Shea, “education is the last thing that should be cut.”
Southern Connecticut State University is facing a large reduction in the budget, with efforts being taken to minimize how it will affect the university’s ability to provide the desired quality of education.
A total of $3,467,837 will be cut as a result of the states reduction of public university funding, according to Executive Vice President James Blake.
In order to save money, Blake said a “hiring freeze” was implemented on full-time employees. There were 27 positions at Southern, including nine for faculty, that had already been funded and were subsequently left vacant.
The vacancies meant that no one currently employed was affected, Blake said.
“Nobody got fired, these positions were open.”
The impact on the faculty can, in turn, impact students with the class cancellations that occurred, Blake said. Most were under enrolled and offered at a different time, but rescheduling is still an inconvenience.
Anthony Moyer, a sociology major, said he had one of his core classes during summer 2012 cancelled due to lack of enrollment. He was able to take the social statistics course the following fall, but the time of the class “screwed up” the schedule he had already prepared for the semester.
In the English department, Shea, who serves as Chairman, said that no courses had to be cut although the fewer number of adjuncts sometimes means that a course might only be offered once a year, instead of once a semester.
“We are trying to adjust the class schedule to offer students the same opportunities with less,” Shea said.
He went on to say that overfilling classes is not the best solution to the faculty issue caused by the budget reduction.
“It is quality versus quantity,” Shea said. “When a class is overfilled, the students are getting a slightly less better education.”
Students who receive financial aid under the Connecticut Aid to Public Schools program had $509,000 reduced by the state, Blake said. Around 250 students who are in economic need would have been affected, Blake said, but Southern made up for the loss by using its own money.
Though no notification has come down yet, Blake said he also expects a reduction in Pell grants from the federal level in the future.
Adding problems to the reduced state funding is the decrease in enrollments, since tuition is a source of funding.
“The decline is significant, especially in the graduate department,” Blake said.
The budget update for fiscal year 2012, that is available on Southern’s website as a slide presentation, highlights the facts in numbers. Enrollment for the fall of 2010 was 11,964, which includes both undergraduate and graduate students whether full or part time. The goal for the fall of 2011 was set at 12,203; the actual enrollment was 670 students short at 11,533. As a result there was a negative impact on funds in the amount of $1,787,237 for fiscal year 2012.
The final slide of the presentation also contains a warning, “The current path that Southern is following…will not sustain Southern as the university we know today.”
Blake said he assumes that the rescission will carry forward to next year, so he and his co-workers have to manage the budget closely in order for the impact to be minimized.
“We are doing a great job of keeping the campus safe, clean, and healthy with the resources we have,” Blake said.