Budget debate worries students
Téa Carter – Copy Editor
Southern is facing a potential strain on its budget in the upcoming months, which will likely take the form of a CSCU system-wide rescission — a revocation of state funding Connecticut has already given each university.
“I think it’s really big to note that it’s the CSCU system that’s getting these cuts,” said finance major Esosa Enagbare, a junior.
“The CSCU system as a whole has the most vulnerable students. It’s not the students they think will fight back. It’s the students they think will just let it happen or the students who won’t know it’s happening. They’re doing it intentionally,” said Enagbare of the state legislature, the body partially responsible for allocating funding to Southern and other CSCUs.
The potential rescission is not likely to affect student life, though, said Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Mark Rozewski.
“The budget for the university is $225 million so, for one thing, I can tell you we’re projecting having a deficit of probably about $3 million. That sounds like a massive amount of money, but as a percentage of a $225 million budget, it’s not actually that much,” said Rozewski.
When operating under a budget deficit, the university can fall back on its reserve funds. The fund could support Southern’s expenditures for approximately a decade, said Rozewski.
If Southern is required to reimburse the state as part of a CSCU-wide rescission, department budgets will likely be the first to be cut, said associate professor of political science and urban affairs Jonathan Wharton.
“Offices can always cut back on supplies, travel, the [reimbursement for] mileage, and they did this [in the past],” said Wharton.
If a rescission is implemented, it will be part of an ongoing trend of budgetary restrictions Southern has faced in recent years.
Last year, the university was under a hiring freeze, a cost-saving measure implemented by the CSCU Board of Regents that allowed Southern to hire only for critical positions.
“The problem is, when you do these hiring freezes, you’re not allowing for continuity. You’re not allowing for a new generation [of faculty] to come in, learn, pick up the skills of the prior generation, and then do it differently,” said Wharton.
When faculty is affected, students are affected, said business and finance major Anneliz Ortiz, a freshman.
“I just think it’s important for our professors to share this kind of thing with us first hand because I think students, especially college students, tend to stand in solidarity of the things they [students] support,” said Ortiz.
Most students on campus are not aware of budgetary restrictions imposed on the university, like hiring freezes, because they rarely affect students directly.
“When it comes to what they’re paying, it’s a wakeup call,” said Wharton. “I think it was a big wakeup call a while back with the tuition increases because a good number of students did testify. So, they were shaken because they realized some of the cuts — some classes weren’t offered, some scholarships were cut.”
Tuition increases, hiring freezes and rescissions exist because higher education expenditures are considered discretionary in the Connecticut state budget. “
We’re the flex in a lot of budgets,” said Rozewski. “Between us and UConn, they spend over a billion dollars on higher [education], so when you take a million here or there to cover other state problems, it’s not like we’re left with nothing.”
Still, for some students, any strain on the university budget is troubling.
“I could not go to college without the state government[‘s help],” said political science major Thomas Pelletier, a senior. “We rely upon the state in so many ways.”
If budget constraints are imposed on Southern, it will affect students to some degree, even if they do not notice, said Enagbare.
“They’re putting up more barriers to kids that already have significant barriers.”