University experiences budget cuts due to COVID-19
Madeline Scharf – Reporter
Keeping a university up and running during a pandemic is a great expense. In October 2020, there were fears surrounding the budget cut that would affect Connecticut State Universities.
The budget cuts for the CSCU schools initially sparked controversy. According to the CT Mirror, CSCU President Mark Ojakian asked the governor for a bailout of around $69 million.
But in the five months since this cut, worry has diminished. Benjamin Barnes, Chief Financial Officer of CSCU schools, spoke about how budget cuts were the right direction to take. “A lot of spending that would normally occur has not happened,” said Barnes.
“Costs have naturally been reduced under the pandemic,” said Barnes. The loss of many in-person activities, like teacher conferences and school-funded trips, has made the financial burden on the school a lot lighter.
In addition to the normal spending cut, the retirement age for many teachers has been reached. “There is currently a hiring freeze in place, as it takes a long time to hire faculty,” said Barnes, “and the university has not necessarily been filling these missing positions.”
Budget cuts also worked in favor for CSCU schools, because some people choose to not enroll in college at all due to COVID-19. “Enrollment went down about 5 percent,” said Barnes.
The loss in tuition and mounting expenses for PPE and COVID-19 testing put a strain on the school’s $234.4 million budget. The federal government has stepped in to offer aid.
“The federal funding is a source of comfort for both students and the institution,” said Barnes.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2021 put into place many benefits.
“A lot of federal funding gives assistance to students,” said Barnes. “It is also to reimburse lost revenue.”
The yearly budget is around $15 million more than last year. That additional money comes from quite a few different sources. “Around $115 million is in tuition fees,” said Barnes. “About $43 million comes from state taxes, and $45 million in fringe benefits. This year, about $11 million comes from housing, $6 million from food, and the remainder from school stores and renting space out.”
Most of the university’s funding comes from tuition, so the 5% drop in enrollment was noticeable. However, Barnes assures that apart from some minor adjustments, “tuition is to be pretty much frozen at its current rate,” said Barnes. “Universities are very mindful not to raise tuition. they understand now is not the time.”
Though there are fears for the universities’ long term financial health, the university does not want to put pressure on students and raise tuition.
From the additional money provided by the federal government to the normal amount provided through revenue lanes, the university seems to be in a good situation. “The university will remain relatively stable,” said Barnes.
There is hope for the future. “The pandemic has left us all hesitant to make any decisions,” said Barnes, “and people are reluctant to predict, but there is optimism. We want to be able to function normally next fall.”