After running on a temporary spending plan since July 1, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $1.03 billion budget Wednesday that avoids further tuition increases in the spring semester.
The board intended to pass a final budget during their meeting in June, but uncertainty over state finances forced them to wait. The new budget falls more than $20 million below last year’s budget.
Chief Financial Officer Richard Gray said this final budget was dominated by revenue increases, since state funding was cut nearly $68 million this fiscal year.
The board also approved the Health Center’s $799.3 million budget, up more than $20 million from last year, making the university a $1.8 billion enterprise, according to Peter S. Drotch, vice-chair of the financial affairs committee.
In order to overcome a near $68 million reduction in state funding the university had to make sweeping cuts, increase tuition and encourage programs including parking services and athletics to be more self -sufficient.
The 2.5 percent tuition increase, the lowest enacted in many years, generated $8.8 million worth of new revenue, leaving the university to contend with millions more in necessary cuts.
As the board considered their options for filling the deficit facing the university earlier in the year, some suggested a midyear tuition increase, but administrators agreed that would not happen.
“The decision was to drop that option,” said Gray. “The cost of that to families and reputational risk would have been a much greater cost.”
While Gray provided that the university’s financial burden on students was relatively low as compared to other public universities, Herbst said the university needs to look at “aspirational peers” including Penn State, which charges in-state students about $5,000 more than UConn.
But discussion of future tuition increases was something the financial affairs committee agreed needed attention soon, said Drotch. The committee plans to address the issue during the Nov. 10 meeting.
With the modest tuition increase, cuts were necessary to balance a budget but Gray said the goal was to keep the percentages low to decrease the severity of the affect on students.
The largest cut came from a $10.2 million reduction in funding to student affairs, which represented 15 percent of the plan laid out by Gray to the Board.
According to Gray, the cuts in student affairs came largely from Collective Bargaining Increase savings, and procurement savings found by the McKinsey Firm, an outside firm hired by the university to find new sources of cost savings and revenue generation.
Specific savings identified by McKinsey were not discussed in the budget presentation, though Gray factored their suggestions into the numbers for cuts he provided during his presentation.
Administrators avoided cutting into the $384 million fund designated for financial aid, even though changing student needs put it $7 million over budget.
A growing concern among the board was the high student to faculty ratio, which is currently in line with other public universities in the area according to numbers provided by Gray.
The ratio stands at about 18 students to one faculty member, which is three students higher than the goal the board stated.
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked UConn 19th for public universities in the country, and student faculty ratio is one of the measurements used to calculate the rankings, said Provost Peter Nicholls.
“Now in order to move us from 19 to another number that has to happen, the (decrease in) class size and more tenure track faculty has to happen,” said Board Chair Larry McHugh. “In these tough economic times it is hard for people to realize that.”
But in order to curtail expenditures and create a balanced budget the university officials said they had to rethink hiring at the university.