As leaders in Connecticut State Colleges and Universities continue to address the system’s projected $48 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year, the system and its faculty unions have taken different approaches to the potential financial crisis.
Citing the budget challenges, Gregory Gray, the president of the Board of Regents — the decision-making body for the CSCU — has asked faculty unions to come to the bargaining table. The request follows approval last week by the BOR of a system-wide hiring freeze and 4.8 percent tuition hike. These measures, respectively, are expected to make up for roughly $10 million and $26 million of the project deficit.
Michael Kozlowski, director of marketing and public affairs for the Connecticut BOR for Higher Education, said that each of CSCU’s 17 member institutions will be responsible for working individually to cut the remaining costs.
Union leaders, including President of the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors Vijay Nair, declined Gray’s invitation, and spoke out against what they perceive is poor management across the system.
“The system office has to do its part, but it can’t do everything that needs to be done in terms of the numbers we’re talking about,” Kozlowski said. “There’s about 6,000 people [employed] system-wide, whereas in the Board of Regents, it’s probably around 160 people.”
Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges President Steve Cohen said that he and other union leaders discussed the matter and ultimately decided that, because the deficit projections are based on the as-of-yet unsigned budget proposal by Gov. Dannel Malloy, there was nothing concrete enough to merit the discussion.
“Speaking just on the community college side, the governor proposed an increase in funding. That increase, combined with retirements and resignations and such, might well be enough to offset any rate increases,” Cohen said. “We were as pleased as could be, given the state’s economic status.”
According to Cohen, Malloy’s plan includes a modest 1.9 percent increase in allocations for the state’s community colleges.
But not all within the community college system are pleased with Malloy’s proposed allocations.
Carlos Torre, a member of the President’s Executive Council at Gateway Community College, said the college continues to grapple with funding difficulties.
“I think there are more creative things that can be done. You can’t just say, well we’re poor and we have to cut budgets,” Torre said. “We’ve got two things — vision and creativity — that have been really underutilized.”
In the face of financial troubles, Torre said he hopes faculty salaries, which he thinks are already not on par with other universities in the area, will not be cut.
Cohen said he is worried college presidents might use tactics like layoffs or branch closures to put pressure on local legislators.
He said he has already heard reports of tenure-track employees receiving notices of non-reappointment, and said there was an unconfirmed report that the Meriden branch of Middlesex Community College had been threatened with closure.
“Those kinds of actions are designed to highlight to the legislature that the system is really in need of money,” Cohen said.
The CSCU system is comprised of four state universities, 12 community colleges and Charter Oak State College.
Correction, April 1
A previous version of this article misstated the approximate number of people employed by the Board of Regents. It is 160, not 60.