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Hundreds of UConn students demand change at Capitol, protest Lamont’s budget proposal

University leadership says if enacted, the governor’s budget would leave the school nearly $160 million short next year.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Hundreds of UConn students gathered at the state capitol Wednesday to protest Gov. Ned Lamont’s state budget proposal.

University leadership says if enacted, the governor’s budget would leave the school nearly $160 million short next year. They add these budget shortfalls could lead to a tuition increase of $3,000 per student, which many say is unaffordable.

“We've come to show the governor and the Connecticut General Assembly how much these cuts could affect us, but also how much we care about UConn,” said student body president Mason Holland.

Lamont argues UConn’s budget is not being cut.

“I think they got some misinformation,” Lamont said at an appearance in Hartford Wednesday. “I just want them to know that's not true. We're continuing to make investments in UConn because it’s the best investment we can make.” 

The governor’s budget does raise base appropriations for UConn by about $23 million dollars, but overall funding to higher education institutions would shrink, which schools say they can’t sustain.  

“We really don't know,” Holland said. “We don't know how it's going to potentially affect us. We really don't know this scale. So we really want to make sure that we don't have to find that out.”

State Rep. Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfield) is co-chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee and sits on the Appropriations Committee.“The governor’s proposal doesn't make a significant investment in public higher education. In fact, he doesn't even give enough to cover their ongoing costs,” Haddad said.

This decrease is due to temporary, pandemic-era American Rescue Plan Act dollars expiring. The Lamont administration says it’s attempting to transition funding to a more sustainable place. 

“In the case of UConn, they had dorms that were empty,” said Lamont. “They were doing testing, they're doing vaccinations. So that money doesn't all have to be replaced because the nature of that emergency is over.”

Wednesday, students and lawmakers said they weren’t convinced.  

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“You're not supporting a business, you're not supporting a corporation. You're supporting students, you are supporting the future of the state,” continued Holland. “Please keep that in mind and please, stand with us in solidarity on that.”

Wednesday night, the Appropriations Committee heard public comments on the governor's proposed budget. 

Lawmakers on the committee said hundreds of people were signed up to speak, many of the students.

"We’re concerned that this budget simply does not provide the funding that the university requires to ensure that all of the students have the opportunities that we need to be successful," said UConn student Irene Soteriou.

Leadership on the appropriations committee said this is just the very beginning of this process the governor's proposal is a starting point and the legislature is now in the process of crafting its own budget proposal.

"Try and be more empathetic to their circumstances but also realize we have a job that we have to do which is balance a budget," said State Rep. Toni Walker, co-chair of the appropriations committee.

Emma Wulfhorst is a political reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at ewulfhorst@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at mmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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