To the University Community:
I write to you with a call to action. Earlier today, the governor presented a two-year state budget proposal to the General Assembly for fiscal years ’24 and ‘25. We rely on the state for approximately 25% of our operating funding annually.
Unfortunately, the appropriations proposed for UConn and UConn Health fall far short of what is necessary to adequately fund the university, carry out our critical public health mission most effectively, and fully cover the sizable costs the state seeks to pass along to us. A preliminary review of the numbers indicates that if enacted as proposed, the governor’s budget would leave the university with a shortfall of $159.6 million next year and $197.1 million the following year compared to the budget requests made by UConn and UConn Health.
Importantly, the governor’s proposed budget would not cover the total amount of salary increases approved under the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the state and state employee unions (known as “SEBAC”). To be clear: UConn is very supportive of ensuring that our workforce is fairly compensated; we believe that our employees earned the wage increases that the state committed to in the agreement. Our request is that the state fund the commitments it made rather than pass the costs on to UConn. These are ongoing costs to the university and cannot be covered with one-time funds.
The governor’s proposal does cover more of what are known as historical unfunded “legacy” costs related to employee fringe benefits that the state assigns to UConn and UConn Health – but it would simultaneously reduce our block grant, cancelling out any fiscal benefit for the university.
In order to cover these and other costs, we requested that the budget fund UConn and UConn Health at $1.0023 billion in fiscal year 2024 and $1.0182 billion in fiscal year 2025. The governor has proposed $842.7 million and $821.1 million, respectively. That is the reason for the potential shortfall.
We are strongly aligned with and fully support the governor’s focus on economic growth and inclusive opportunity over the next two years and beyond; investing in UConn and ensuring that our students have access to a world-class education is one of the best investments Connecticut can make to bolster that economic future and create those new opportunities. He is right when he says that in order to attract and retain companies we must invest in education, workforce, and quality of life.
Since 1991, thanks in part to our efforts to identify efficiencies and increase private donations, we have been able to manage fiscally even as state funding for UConn’s Storrs and regional campuses has gone from 50% percent of our budget then to 25% today. The amount of unfunded liability assigned to us is fiscally devastating, which is why the state pays the unfunded liability for its other agencies. The unfunded state liability being passed along to UConn has increased from $53 million in 2018 to $106 million today. The state also funds the cost of collective bargaining agreements for other agencies, but proposes not to fully fund them for UConn.
UConn is Connecticut and Connecticut is UConn; when the state invests in its flagship university, it is investing in itself and its people. State government and its leaders clearly recognize this and have made visionary investments in UConn and UConn Health over decades, from UConn 2000 to NextGen Connecticut to Bioscience Connecticut, for which we are incredibly grateful.
UConn is an outstanding global university that demonstrates a constant commitment to excellence in research, education, innovation, entrepreneurship, industry partnerships, clinical care, and community engagement in an environment that prioritizes public service, opportunity, and accessibility for all. Our impact on Connecticut’s economy is more than $6.9 billion annually.
The data back this up. We currently have more students applying, enrolling, and graduating than ever before; we expect to receive an astounding 47,000 applications this year. Faculty are successfully competing for grants at record levels, and hundreds of small- to medium-sized businesses in Connecticut have been created or aided by the university. UConn Health is serving more patients than at any point in its history, including underserved populations who are increasingly drawn to UConn Health for its excellent care and reputation as a destination medical center.
If the university tried to cover the Storrs portion of these shortfalls by raising tuition, it would mean an increase of 19% or $3,000 more per student next year alone. The university and the Board of Trustees are very concerned about affordability and would like to keep any tuition increases as modest as possible. The university will spend more than $175 million on financial aid this year, an increase of 7% over the prior year. Our team prioritizes cost and aid, keeping our eyes on the average indebtedness of our graduates, for which UConn falls well below the state and national averages. In the last 25 years, we have added more than 10,000 students, but did not add administration and management – only 2.3% of UConn’s workforce are senior administration. We are doing our own cutting and consolidation whenever possible: In the last five years alone, UConn and UConn Health have successfully achieved more than $215 million in savings through Financial Improvement Plans. We simply cannot provide less while asking our students to pay more.
The governor’s budget also recommends combining the UConn and UConn Health state funding into one budget. The university believes in and has been practicing a “One UConn” model for years with respect to shared services between campuses, but combining the two budgets would have serious implications for our students and patients, and the university opposes this recommendation. It threatens to create situations and scenarios where UConn is urged or mandated to use funds generated by and intended for the Storrs and regional campuses to, for example, fund unrelated costs at UConn Health in Farmington, or vice versa.
Some of you have already asked me: “What can we do?” The governor proposes a budget; the Connecticut General Assembly produces its own budget and ultimately negotiates a final budget with the administration. So if you are a Connecticut resident, you can contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to ensure that UConn and UConn Health are fully funded.
The budget will be negotiated over the next several months; the leadership team at the university and our Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors at UConn Health will join our committed alumni and supporters to advocate for the state funding that is so critical to the success of our students, patients, and the entire State of Connecticut. We look forward to working with the governor, OPM, and the General Assembly to help ensure that UConn receives the support it needs. Click here for more vital statistics about the contributions UConn and UConn Health make to Connecticut.
Leading with joy and love for all,