Malloy and Democrats eviscerate “Transform CSCU 2020” in the new State Budget

It was with great “fan-fare” that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy traveled to Manchester Community College this past January to announce his “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative.

Malloy claimed that his plan would provide Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges with an extra $60.2 million in funding.   Governor Malloy stated at the time,

“This is only a down payment… I’m making a personal commitment, and I hope future governors will make a personal commitment to make sure that this program continues.”

At the press conference, the President of Manchester Community College declared,

“We’re here today to celebrate the governor’s goal to support student success by his investment…It’s this investment that will better position us to be on the leading edge with our academic programs and will increase public higher education’s role in sustaining and expanding economic vitality for this state of Connecticut.”

But unfortunately, like so many of Governor Malloy’s “initiatives,” the reality of his plan failed to match the rhetoric delivered at his press conference… In fact, the plan didn’t match the rhetoric at all.

As a result of Malloy’s historic cuts to higher education, Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges are facing a very real and a very serious $42 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

This projected budget deficit means that the four Connecticut State University campuses and the twelve community college campuses need $42 million just to maintain the existing level of reduced services, let alone provide additional services to Connecticut’s college students.

Yet rather than confront the budget deficit that resulted from his previous actions, Governor Malloy tried to portray his new proposal as an effort to enhance and expand Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

By calling his $60 million initiative, “Transform CSCU 2020,” Malloy’s plan was little more than a public relations ploy since realistically, the $42 million of the $60 million of the “new” money is need simply to maintain existing services.  The remaining $20 million was all that would have been available to actually enhance or “Transform” existing programs at these public universities and colleges.

Almost immediately, questions about Malloy’s plan were raised.  Here is a link to the CT Mirror’s story entitled, “Malloy’s CT state college plan:

But even Malloy’s initial gimmick was not to be.

By the time the Connecticut General Assembly was ready to take up the proposed state budget, Malloy’s $60 million “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative, and its complex revenue intercept plan, was gone and replaced with a simple $47 million allocation to the Board of Regents.

And when the budget was actually voted on last Saturday, the “Transform” initiative had dropped again, from $47 million to $42 million —- just enough to fill the budget deficit created by Malloy’s earlier budget cuts.

The truth is that what was left of Malloy’s “Transform” plan left nothing at all for new programs at CSU or the community colleges.

Yet, in a grotesque failure to be honest, Malloy and the General Assembly continued to call the reduced allocation, “Transform CSCU 2020,” leaving many legislators and interested observers thinking that it was the same initiative Malloy had proposed in January.

Also, in typical fashion, Malloy didn’t even properly fund the $42 million budget allocation.

The new state budget actually allocates $23 million in state funds to the Board of Regents to help fill their budget deficit and transfers another $19 million from the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to the Board of Regents so that it can close the rest of its budget deficit.

Of course, by using one-time revenue, Malloy has assured that the public colleges and universities start the following year with a $19 million deficit and counting…a deficit that will be part of Malloy’s $1.3 billion dollar state deficit that must be cleaned up by the state’s next governor.

Truth be told, in its final form, Malloy’s Transform CSCU 2020 is nothing more than an effort to backfill the budget deficits Malloy’s own plans created.

As an aside, Malloy’s decision to raid the assets of the Connecticut State Loan Foundation wasn’t limited to the $19 million for the State Universities and Community Colleges.

The Governor, with the support of the legislature’s Democrats, also grabbed $4,400,000 of the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation for the “CHET Baby Scholars Program” and $1,600,000 of the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to pay for the Office of Higher Education’s “Governor’s Scholarship Program.”

Irresponsible budgeting doesn’t even begin to describe what Malloy has done with this new state budget.

Malloy majors in fiction at press conference touting commitment to higher education

“I am not talking about what happened in the past. I am talking about what needs to happen in the future.  (Governor Dannel Malloy 2-12-14)

The CT News Junkie headline reads “Commits To Higher Ed, Hopes Future Governors Will Too.”

Governor Malloy held a press conference at Manchester Community College on Wednesday in which he touted the “major investment” he was making in Connecticut’s institutions of public education.

As the article reports;

“Calling his recently announced higher education investments a good first step, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday he’s committed to additional funding increases even as he nears the end of his current term as governor.”

This “commitment” comes from the same Governor Malloy who has pushed through the deepest budget cuts in state history at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

At UConn, for example, before Malloy became governor, the Connecticut state budget accounted for 33% of the total cost required to operate the University of Connecticut.  Three years into his term and after his record budget cuts at UConn, Connecticut State University and at the State’s Community Colleges, the state now only provides 27.9% of the amount necessary to keep UConn operating.

As a direct result of Malloy’s budget cuts, the burden on students and their families have INCREASED by 17.3% with tuition and fees going up by double digits since Malloy became governor.

In 2010, candidate Dan Malloy promised to make Connecticut’s public college and universities a priority.  Since being sworn in as Dannel Malloy in 2011, Malloy has done exactly the opposite.

The reality is that it is getting harder and harder for middle class families to afford to send their children to college in Connecticut.  Since 2000, the cost of attending UConn has increased 118%.

And no Connecticut governor in living memory has done as much damage to higher education than Malloy.

But in what has now become typical fashion, Malloy failed to let the truth get in the way of a good press opportunity.

According to the CT News Junkie article, Malloy called his new funding initiative;

“Not a bad start” and added, “This is only a down payment, I’ve said it to members of the Regents Board. As this plan becomes further identified, there will in fact be increased investments in this system. That’s why this is really a celebration . . . of what is to come in the future.”

As Malloy put it, “I’m making a personal commitment and I hope future governors will make a personal commitment to make sure that this program continues…I want to be very clear, this is just the beginning of the investments we need to make in this system.”

However, the “new investment” that Malloy is making is based on an incredible budget gimmick and is not an ongoing effort to improve funding at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

As the CT Mirror explains, “Malloy is proposing to pay for this initiative using a budget loophole to get around the state’s constitutional spending limits.”

In a related budget story the CT Mirror laid out Malloy’s plan;

“…the $60 million Malloy would provide to cover the operating expenses…rely and the buy-one-get-one-free course for dropouts would come from a “one-time revenue transfer,” according to the administration.

What Malloy has proposed commonly is known in fiscal analyst circles as an “intercept” — a loophole used to move funds off budget and outside the purview of the constitutional spending cap.

After pledging for weeks that his new budget would comply with the cap, Malloy sent lawmakers a $19 billion plan that falls a razor-thin $8 million under the cap — and that’s before the Transform CSCU 2020 initiative is included.

The Democratic governor has been loathe to approve a legal exception to the cap – having criticized his GOP predecessors for frequently going that route. That option also is more complicated, requiring a 60 percent vote of approval in both the House and Senate.

Malloy instead turned to a loophole.

The cap system technically applies only to tax receipts and other revenues assigned to the state budget. Malloy will ask lawmakers to “intercept” $60 million of those revenues – which means that before the money “arrives” in the state treasury, it has been assigned to a new purpose outside of the budget.

Effectively, there would be no difference in how the money is spent in the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the expenditure wouldn’t be counted for spending cap purposes.

Traditionally though, state payments to cover higher education costs have been included within the budget.

Governor Malloy’s entire “commitment” to higher education has been a farce and his latest “commitment” is even more absurd than his previous ones.

Hide your children – Arne Duncan is coming to Connecticut Tuesday

According to the Hartford Courant, “The governor’s office confirms that Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, will visit Hartford’s University High School on Tuesday afternoon at 1:30. Duncan will speak on college accessibility and affordability. According to Duncan’s office the event will include U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others.”

Considering Duncan et. al. are coming to speak about college affordability, choosing Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering, rather than one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities is an interesting choice.

Considering Governor Malloy has instituted the deepest budget cuts in Connecticut history to the state’s public institutions of higher education, cuts that have led to significant tuition increases, it could be that the Governor’s handlers are worried that they won’t receive a warm welcome.

[Back in the fall of 2010 I attended a University of Connecticut Young Democrats meeting with candidate Dan Malloy in which he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and promised to put an end to Governor Rell’s approach of shifting costs from the state to students and their families.  What a sad commentary that Malloy has done far more to increase college costs for Connecticut’s families than Rell ever did].

In any case, Malloy and Duncan are not appearing at one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities, they are speaking at a Hartford public school.

As so-called education reformers perhaps Malloy and Duncan are more comfortable sticking to the corporate education reform environment that has become Hartford’s School System.

Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering is a prime example of a place where the hard work and real achievement of teachers and students have been overshadowed by the political spin that is the centerpiece of the corporate education reform industry.

According to University High School’s most recent STRATEGIC SCHOOL PROFILE filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education the school gets 51 percent of students from 35 towns surrounding Hartford and 49 percent of its students from Hartford.

Of the student population, 30 percent is White, 34 percent African American, 23 percent Hispanic and 13 percent from “other ethnicities.”

Although it is interesting to note that the school claims that only 2.8 percent of its students are English Language Learners (meaning that they are not proficient in the English Language).  The number is unbelievably low considering the significant number of students from Hispanic and other ethnic backgrounds.

Furthermore, the school reports that only 7.5 percent of its students need special education services, far fewer than the percentages in Hartford or the 34 sending towns.

And then the numbers become even more suspect.

According to the Strategic School Profile, University High School of Science and Engineering graduated its fourth class with a “100% graduation rate.”

The school adds that “100% of graduating seniors applied to and were accepted into a 2 or 4 year college. 90% of graduates are attending a four-year college or university; 8% are attending two-year colleges; and 2% post graduate year.”

However, the school also states that 185 students qualified as truant meaning that 48% of the entire student body was absent for an extremely extended period of time.  Not that truancy necessarily prevents a 100% graduation rate and 100% college attendance rate but the statistic is rather odd.

In addition, another troubling statistic is that only 10.6 percent of the juniors and seniors at Hartford’s University High School were enrolled in college credit courses of any type.  Compare that number to Buckley High where 14.6 percent of the juniors and seniors were taking college credit courses.

Of course, both schools do significantly better than Capital Prep where absolutely no students were enrolled in college credit courses.

Over the last few years it has become painfully clear that Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy and the Obama and Malloy administrations are addicted to policies that are “data driven.”

And playing with the numbers to ensure they match the policy goals is not unheard of.

So, with tuition skyrocketing at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, increases that are a direct result of Governor Malloy’s budget cuts, it will be very interesting (and entertaining) to hear the spin that will be coming from Duncan and Malloy on Tuesday afternoon.

Now that’s funny: “Malloy Signs Bill Shifting Power to Pick Regents Chief From His Office To Board”

AKA:  The ongoing saga known as the Connecticut Board of Regents

Earlier this month, at the request of Governor Malloy’s Chief of Staff, the Chairman of the Board of Regents informed that Board that it would be sending the Governor the names of the three finalists.  In that way, the Governor and not the Board would be selecting the next president of the Board of Regents.

Wait, What? readers may recall the two posts entitled “News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law” and “Whoa there…Let’s try telling the truth…

As the CTMirror reported at the time, the Chairman of the Board of Regent explained that the Board forwarded three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”  The news story quoted Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson as saying, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

All this despite the fact that the letter and spirit of the law was stunningly clear.  The Board of Regents was to conduct interviews, select a candidate and the Governor would technically make the appointment.  In that way, the selection process would be done at arm’s-length from the politics of the Capitol.

But alas, despite that clear intent of the law, Governor Malloy and his staff couldn’t help themselves.  They wanted to determine which of the three finalists were most likely to recognize their supreme authority.

In response to all of this, the Connecticut General Assembly acted with amazing courage and speed and actually fast-tracked legislation “clarifying” the law by taking away Governor Malloy’s authority to even make the appointment.  The new bill put the duty to appoint in the hands of the Board of Regents, tracking the approach that exists with the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees.

When the dust settled, there was no bill signing on this one.  No smiling faces crowded around the Governor waiting for their copy of the pen that signed the legislation into law.

Instead, as the Hartford Courant noted in their story, “According to a statement from the governor’s office, Malloy ‘signed legislation he proposed in collaboration with state lawmakers’ and said ‘the change will help the next leader institute a long-term vision that increases stability and academic growth for the students at the state’s colleges and universities.’”

Malloy’s statement went on to read, “’I want to thank the members of the House and the Senate, including the chairs of the Higher Education Committee, for working with my administration on introducing this bill and acting quickly on its passage,’ Malloy said, according to the statement.”

So there you go — it turns out that it was all one big misunderstanding and Governor Malloy was actually the one who wanted the new law that made it clear that it was the Board’s responsibility and not his to make the appointment of the next president of the CSU and Community Colleges system.

Thank goodness that was clarified before the governor was forced to personally choose the next president.

You can read more about this story in the follow CTMirror article: http://ctmirror.org/story/19758/after-controversies-general-assembly-votes-remove-governors-authority-naming-college-pre

Resume Enhancement 101: The President Elsa Nunez story

When Governor Rell nominated World Wrestling CEO Linda McMahon for a position on the State Board of Education, McMahon claimed that she had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.  Thanks to some investigative work, I learned that the degree was really in French.

More recently, Wait, What? readers will recall that an aide to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch listed himself on a national website that he served as Bridgeport’s Deputy Mayor for Education despite the fact that Bridgeport didn’t have a position of Deputy Mayor and the young staff person wasn’t actually even at the director level of anything.

In this Internet age, padding one’s resume has become increasingly difficult since the truth is only a search or two away.

That said, “Resume Enhancement” remains a part of our world.

The tactic is especially condemned in the world of colleges, universities and academia, which makes the following story all the more strange.

Connecticut State Register and Manual, often called “The Connecticut Blue Book,” has been the official record of Connecticut government since 1785.

The State Register and Manual lists the President of EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY as Elsa Nuñez, Ph.D.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Campus Compact (CTCC) is an organization that was established in 1998 and is made up of twenty-eight Connecticut colleges and universities.  Its goal is to help colleges develop more effective community partnerships.  The CTCC is governed by a Board of Directors, which lists Elsa Nuñez, Ph.D., as its Vice Chair.

Elsa Nunez, Ph.D. also serves on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Association of Human Services, a one hundred-year-old organization that promotes economic security strategies for low-income families.

And Eastern Connecticut State University’s Canadian Studies Program lists Elsa Nunez, Ph.D. as the President of Eastern.

Elsa Nunez, Ph.D. is also quoted by numerous media outlets such as the Manchester Journal Inquirer newspaper and the CT Latino News.

The only problem is, Elsa Nuñez doesn’t have a Ph.D.

Elsa Nunez doesn’t have a Ph.D. but she did receive an Ed.D. (A Doctor of Education) from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in 1979.

At the time, Rutgers’ granted an Ed.D. from the School of Education in a variety of concentrations including; “(1) Creative Arts Education, (2)Elementary/Early Childhood Education, (3) English-Language Arts Education, (4) Language Education (with emphasis in BilingualBicultural, English as a Second Language, Foreign Language and Linguistics Education), (5) Mathematics Education, (6) Science Education, (7) Social Education.

Let’s be clear.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with an Ed.D. but as academics will tell you, an Ed.D. is a very different degree than a Ph.D.

The Ph.D. is an academic doctoral degree and is specifically called a “doctor of philosophy.”

An Ed.D. is traditionally a professional or vocational degree for people who work in the field of Education.

As New York University notes in their Graduate School of Education catalog, “The Ph.D. program is a research degree designed for students who aspire to conduct research throughout their careers in roles such as faculty members, researchers, government employees, policy scholars, or institutional researchers…”

NYU goes on to say, “In contrast, the Ed.D. program is designed to meet the increasing need for visionary and entrepreneurial leaders in community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, corporate-sponsored education, and governmental agencies.”

Or as Wikipedia explains, “In the United States, the Ph.D. degree is the highest academic degree awarded by universities…” Whereas, the Doctor of Education (Ed.D) is a degree that has a more “professional” focus.  Wikipedia goes on to explain. “From the very beginning there was a formal division between the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. in education, and the growing popularity of the applied doctorates was met by faculty in the arts and sciences questioning their legitimacy. They argued that practical and vocational aims were inappropriate for doctoral study, which they contended should be focused on producing scholarly research and college professors…The Ed.D. and the colleges of education that granted them continued to face criticism…”

While the issue may seem rather archaic to some, rest assured that at universities around the nation, the debate remains heated.  Many academics are particularly sensitive about whether the letters Ph.D. or Ed.D. are listed after their names.

In Nunez’s case, rather than explain that she has an Ed.D. from Rutgers with a concentration in “Language Education (with emphasis in BilingualBicultural, English as a Second Language, Foreign Language and Linguistics Education),” President Nunez’ simply states that she has a “Doctorate in linguistics from Rutgers.”

And that is how Nunez’ bio reads today – “A Doctorate in linguistics from Rutgers.”

It would be fair to say that such a claim is one of those statements that isn’t quite true, but then again, it isn’t quite a lie either.

What is true is that Nunez collects $299,460 a year, plus benefits, as the President of Eastern and now gets an extra $48,000 as a result of the extra administrative duties she provides for the Board of Regents.  Her pay raise was caught up in last year’s illegal bonuses that the previous President of the Board of Regents doled out.  Those bonuses or pay increase were then revoked but later re-instated for Nunez and one of the Community College Presidents who was also given “extra administrative duties.”

In the world of politics, there is little awareness of the difference between Ph.Ds and Ed.Ds, but that is hardly the case in the world of academics.

And it is for that reason that it is rather odd for Elsa Nunez to approach this controversial issue in the way that she has.

Whoa there…Let’s try telling the truth…

The CTMirror has a “must read” follow up story about Governor Malloy’s “request” to interview and select a finalist for the position of President of the Connecticut Board of Regents.

In the article, the CTMirror reports that, “The governor’s spokesman, Andrew Doba, said the interviews aren’t unusual. He noted that the University of Connecticut trustees in late 2010 allowed then-Governor-elect Malloy to interview finalists for the president’s post that went to Susan Herbst.”

File that one under somewhere between “misleading spin” and “out-right lie.”

In fact, in 2010, Governor Rell and Governor-elect Malloy met with Susan Herbst, as did dozens of other individuals, PRIOR to the UConn Board of Education’s vote.

Then, according to press reports, including the Associated Press’ national story, “UConn’s Board of Trustees unanimously selected Susan Herbst at a special meeting Monday, calling her an exceptional leader in higher education who will use her enthusiasm and experience to help UConn push ahead academically and in research.”

The situation that played out yesterday was very different.  In this case, “the regents voted Thursday to recommend three finalists to Malloy for the president’s position…” and Lewis Robinson, the chairman of the Board of Regents, who was appointed by Governor Malloy, explained their decision to the CTMirror by saying, “the governor had requested three. And I thought as a courtesy or respect to his office, it would be appropriate to accede to that wish.”

This approach despite the fact that Connecticut law clearly states that it is the Board of Regents who is responsible for selecting the name of the President of the Board.

So just to be clear…

Despite what the Governor’s spokesman says, there is actually a very big difference between Malloy meeting with Susan Herbst before the UConn Board of Trustees voted to make her president and the Board of Regents inappropriately voting to forward three names to Governor Malloy so that he can interview and pick one.

In one scenario, the UConn Board of Trustees was acting legally.

In the other scenario, the Connecticut Board of Regents was acting illegally.

You can read the latest CTMirror story at:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/19641/governor-will-get-pick-next-college-president

News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law

Earlier today, Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education met and voted to forward three names to Governor Malloy with the request that he pick one to serve as President of the combined State University and Community College System.

But the fact is that neither the Board of Regents nor the Governor has the authority to make the choice in this way.

According to Connecticut law, the Governor nominates the majority of the members of the Board of Regents and, according to the new Board of Regents law passed in 2011, “The Governor shall appoint the chairperson of the board…”

However when it comes to choosing the President of the Connecticut Board of Regents system, the law is absolutely and completely clear.

Section 10a-1b of the Connecticut State Statutes reads, “(a) The Governor shall appoint an interim president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education who shall serve as president until a successor is appointed and confirmed. On or after January 1, 2012, the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall be recommended by the board and appointed by the Governor…”

Governor Malloy did appoint an interim President who was forced to resign after it was discovered that he inappropriately provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to his staff.

And now it is “on or after January 1, 2012.”

The law is that, “the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall be recommended by the board and appointed by the Governor…”

According to a story that has been posted on the CTMirror website, the Chairman of the Board of Regents, appointed by Malloy, said that the board sent three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”

The CT Mirror reports that Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson said, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

But as the CT Mirror goes on to note, “State law requires the board to recommend “the president” to the governor. The board’s decision was announced during a two-minute public meeting following an hour-long meeting of the board behind closed doors.”

“The governor had requested three. And I thought as a courtesy or respect to his office, it would be appropriate to accede to that wish,” Robinson told the CT Mirror.

But the law is the law.

And, this is a law that the Governor’s Chief of Staff helped write and personally lobbied.

If the Governor and General Assembly meant to have the Board of Regents forward three names to a sitting governor so that the governor could then wheel and deal, they would have done that.

Instead it was written in a way similar to the law for the University of Connecticut.

Connecticut law has always been clear that it is not the role of politicians to decide which academic should run our institutions of higher education.

Instead, the approach has always been that governors nominate and legislatures approved the members of the various boards who then have the duty to make the key personnel decisions removed, or at least somewhat, from the realm of partisan and personal politics.

The debate about how best to choose the President of the Board of Regents took place two years ago.  A process was decided and that process was put into law.

That process provided that the Board of Regents would go through the selection process and choose who they deemed to be the best person for the job…and the governor would then appoint that person to the post.

The law is the law.

The Chairman of the Board of Regents had an obligation to tell Governor Malloy that the Board was legally obligated to follow the law.

The Board of Regents itself was obligated to tell the Governor that the Board was legally obligated to follow the law.

And Governor Malloy and his Chief of Staff should never have requested that the Board of Regents do anything but follow the law.

As citizens of the state of Connecticut we are left wondering…

What will it take for the Governor of this state to admit that even he is not above the laws of Connecticut?

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s Attorney General should be on the phone right now ordering the Board of Regents to re-convene and conduct themselves in a manner that fulfills their duties under the laws of Connecticut, regardless of what the Governor has asked them to do.

You can find the CT Mirror story here:  http://www.ctmirror.com/story/19641/governor-will-get-pick-next-college-president

Update: Next Generation UConn – An additional $1.5 billion in borrowing

By adding $1.5 billion in new state bonds on top of the remaining $235 million in UConn 2000/21st Century UConn state bonds, Governor Malloy is proposing an impressive plan to invest in “science, technology, engineering and math programs at the University of Connecticut.”

According to the Hartford Courant, “Malloy emphasized that the investment was needed to improve the state’s economy, which some see as stagnating. He predicted that over the next decade the project would attract $270 million in research grants and $527 million in business activity, as well as supporting more than 4,000 permanent jobs.”

“Quite frankly this investment should have been made 10 years ago,” Malloy said. “If it were made 20 years ago, our economy would be stronger today.”

Malloy’s plan would include $450 million for new science and engineering facilities and $770 million in infrastructure improvement, including a major expansion of UConn’s Stamford campus.  The plan would also increase the number of undergraduates attending UConn from 17,000 to about 24,000.

While the University of Connecticut and Connecticut’s other public colleges and universities definitely need more operating support, the Governor proposal overlooks three key points.

First, over the past two years, this Governor has implemented the deepest cuts in state history to the University of Connecticut and the state’s other public institutions of higher education.  UConn alone has been hit with over $50 million in cuts.  It wasn’t that long ago that the state provided about 50 percent of the funds needed to run the University of Connecticut.  As a result of the on-going reductions in support, the state’s share of funding for UConn has dropped below 30 percent.  These cuts have translated into program reductions and much higher costs to students and parents.  In essence, students are already being asked to pay more and get less.

Second, more recognition should be given to the fact that the state has already invested $2.3 billion in the University of Connecticut through the UConn 2000 and 21st Century bonding program.  Those funds have allowed UConn to completely overhaul its facilities.  Thanks to those funds, UConn has a new chemistry building, a new biology building, a new agricultural biotechnology building, a new marine science facility, two new engineering buildings, new and renovated facilities for math, physics and material sciences, a new pharmacy building and numerous other new specialized labs and classrooms.

While more facilities would certainly be optimal, what UConn desperately needs are funds to staff the new facilities and create the appropriate teaching, research and service programs that were supposed to go into those new facilities.

As most people recognize, borrowing should be used for buildings, not on-going programs.

However, in this case, while Malloy’s plan moves money around, significant amounts of the new bonding would be used to pay for new faculty members; 1,400 scholarships for top students; 50 doctoral fellowships; and 2,000 grants for students and faculty to launch projects.

Finally, Connecticut already faces significant debt and long-term liabilities that must be paid.  In fact, these are liabilities that the state MUST pay off in the next couple of decades.  Before adding more debt and liabilities to the state’s books, state officials must take far more aggressive action to increase funding to reduce the existing liabilities.  The following chart summarizes Connecticut’s existing debt and liabilities.

Category Amount of State Debt or State Unfunded Liabilities
State Borrowing $20 billion
State Pension Fund $11 billion
Teacher Pension Fund $11 billion
Post Retirement State and Teacher  Health Benefits $19 billion
GAAP $1.5 billion
TOTAL $62.5 BILLION

 

UConn definitely needs more funding.  A more realistic approach to increasing operating funds would have been a better step forward.

You can read more about Malloy’s proposal via the following links: http://www.courant.com/news/breaking/hc-engineering-uconn-0201-20130131,0,4372437.story and http://ctmirror.org/story/18962/21-billion-plan-uconn and http://today.uconn.edu/blog/2013/01/uconn-state-officials-announce-launch-of-next-generation-connecticut-initiative/

Borrowing another $1.5 Billion for UConn… OMG, Wait, What?

According to a breaking story from the Hartford Courant, “Science, technology, engineering and math programs at the University of Connecticut could get a $1.5 billion boost over the next decade, with the intention of creating a pipeline of talent that will yield substantial returns for the state workforce and economy.”

Governor Malloy has scheduled a press conference for later today to explain his initiative, but Kathy Megan of the Courant writes that the so-called Next Generation Connecticut program would:

“Increase faculty in science, technology and engineering by 258 at the three campuses, in addition to 290 new faculty the university is in the process of hiring.

Outdated classrooms, laboratories, research space and infrastructure on the Storrs campus would be renovated and new housing would be designed for the students.

The Stamford campus would expand its digital design program, creating a school of fine arts and digital design and media, while also expanding business programs in financial management, international business, global risk management, sports management and other areas. There would be some money for student housing.

In Hartford, the program would help cover the relocation of the Greater Hartford branch from West Hartford to downtown Hartford — a move that is expected to take place within a year — including the construction of laboratories. It also would fuel a collaboration with community colleges and be used to attract “high poverty, but high-potential students,” a source said, and will be used to enhance internship opportunities for undergraduates and those in graduate professional programs.”

Well at least there is the money for the mysterious move of UConn’s West Hartford branch to downtown…. 

So the proposal is $1.5 billion?

One would have to assume that this initiative will be funded through additional  borrowing (bonding money) since the state is facing a $1.2 billion plus deficit next year and it will be hard pressed to maintain existing services, let alone add major new programs, in the years to come.

As a result of UConn 2000 and 21st Century UConn, the state of Connecticut has already committed to borrowing $2.3 billion – meaning it will cost taxpayers well over $4 billion just to pay back the funds that have already been borrowed.

And, of course, as noted in yesterday’s Wait, What? post, Connecticut is already the most debt laden state in the nation.

But another $1.5 billion in borrowing?

[As an aside, don’t get me wrong. I may be known as one of UConn’s harshest critics but I’m also one of its strongest supporters.  I represented UConn and Mansfield in the Connecticut General Assembly for ten years.  I wrote the Higher Education Autonomy and Flexibility bill that gave Connecticut’s public colleges and universities the autonomy they now have.  I designed and coordinated the UConn 2000 advocacy campaign that led to the state’s investment of $1 billion in 1995.  I supported 21st Century UConn that extended that program by $1.3 billion in 2005.  And I co-chaired the Governor’s Commission on UConn 2000 that investigated the massive construction, management and financial problems associated with that spending.  It was an investigation that discovered that at one point UConn had more than 5,000 students living in dorms that didn’t meet fire code.  In fact, the investigation discovered UConn wasted tens of millions of dollars during the first decade of the UConn 2000/21st Century UConn program.  Thankfully, all the Commission’s recommendations were adopted by the Legislature, much of it over UConn’s opposition, and the program got back on track.]

But another $1.5 billion in borrowing?

Considering the massive amount of state debt and the unfunded pension liabilities and the lack of sufficient funds for post-retirement health benefits, and the money needed to put Connecticut on GAAP accounting, Connecticut will have a difficult, if not impossible, time paying its existing bills.

Is it possible that the Governor is suggesting more debt be added?

Then again, maybe Malloy has identified a creative way to finance this initiative.

Check back later for more details.

Until then, here is the link to the Courant story:  http://www.courant.com/community/mansfield/hc-uconn-engineering-school-0131-20130130,0,4906946.story

It’s politics – not asbestos that clouds UConn’s downtown Hartford move

There must be big money and politics at play behind UConn’s downtown move.

Or as they say at the Legislative Office Building – “You can smell a rat with this one.”

On Wednesday the Hartford Business Journal wrote, “The University of Connecticut’s relocation of its West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford has hit a stumbling block as the office building the school is targeting for relocation in Constitution Plaza has several issues including asbestos and space constraints…”

On Thursday the Hartford Business Journal wrote, “The University of Connecticut Thursday morning put a request for proposals seeking 150,000 square feet of office space from landlords in downtown Hartford, as the state’s flagship university looks to relocate its West Hartford campus to the Capital City.

According to the Hartford Business Journal, “UConn officials say moving into the Travelers Education Center is still not out of the question, but the school is now trying to broaden its search to it determine its options.”

However, the far more relevant question is who is pushing the entire project.  Why the secrecy, the speed and the decision to walk away from millions in taxpayer funds that have already been spent on the West Hartford Campus.

On December 3rd, 2012, Wait, What? readers had a chance to learn about the issue from a post entitled, “Corporate Welfare Boondoggle Alert: Moving UConn’s West Hartford Campus downtown.”

In that post I wrote that in early November, UConn President Susan Herbst issued a statement announcing that the University of Connecticut’s Greater Hartford Campus would be moving from its West Hartford location to downtown Hartford within the year.

For starters, it was bizarre that such a significant announcement would be done by press release, and considering Governor Malloy’s approach to public relations, it was strange that he wasn’t mentioned, especially considering he is, by law, the President of the UConn Board of Trustees.

Instead UConn President Herbst rationalized the move by saying, “An estimated $18.4 million would be required to bring the buildings [at the West Hartford Campus] to an acceptable state.  Furthermore, updates and repairs needed to be made to the technology infrastructure, the mechanical systems in the three main campus buildings need to be completely replaced.  Combined, nearly $25 million would be needed to keep the campus operational.”

What UConn’s President failed to make clear is that $25 million in UConn 21st Century bond funds were allocated to the University in 2005 to renovate the West Hartford campus and UConn has already spent millions of dollars of that money on West Hartford campus renovations, especially over the last few years.  Some of those renovations include;

  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Electrical Switchgear Replacement: $1 million (2012)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Student Lounge $839,000 (2011)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – 1800 Asylum Boiler Replacement:  $850,000 (2011)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements-Chemistry Lab $1.5 million: (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Phase I $1.4 million: (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Trecker Library Repairs $525,000 (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Social Work Building $1 million (2009)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Parking Lot: $850,000 (2005)

Furthermore, less than ten years ago, UConn spent millions for a university wide master plan including one for the West Hartford Campus.  It was that plan that led to the renovations that have already taken place.

Are more renovations needed?   Perhaps.

Does it make more sense to move UConn’s West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford and walk away from all the work that was done?  Probably not.

No matter what, policymakers, students and taxpayers deserve to know a whole lot more about what is really pushing this plan forward.

Perhaps the most telling point of all can be found in the Business Journal’s recent article where it reports, “UConn also said Thursday that it did not intend to make its move to downtown Hartford public until it had located its new location picked out, but the move was leaked by the media.”

Wait, What?

The state’s public research university is saying that it had NO INTENTION of alerting the public that it was moving its major Hartford regional campus until the new location was picked out?

It is time for a legislative investigation of this one.

You can read the first Wait, What post on this here:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/12/03/corporate-welfare-boondoggle-alert-moving-uconns-west-hartford-campus-downtown/

And the latest two Hartford Business Journal articles here: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130123/NEWS01/130129940 and  http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130124/NEWS01/130129909