NEW BRITAIN – Responding to BOR President Mark Ojakian’s May 17, 2017, letter on falling state budget revenues and how the CSCU system will be affected, CSU-AAUP President Elena Tapia issued the following statement:
In his statement today, President Ojakian argues that the best-case outcome of these competing austerity budgets presented at the state legislature is cuts of “$62 million for the system in the next biennium.” He continues: “These decreases in funding have the potential to profoundly change how we educate our students. These cuts would greatly impact the sustainability of many of our institutions. These budget figures go well beyond the savings targets we were planning for under the Students First strategies. If our system does get a cut of this magnitude, it will force us to go back and explore options that we frankly did not want to consider including closing campuses, eliminating certain student services and making significant workforce reductions.”
The BOR and President Ojakian should not compound a budgetary crisis by engaging in educational violence against our system. Instead, they should lead the political fight to raise revenue, increase taxation on the ultra-wealthy and corporate elites. President Ojakian should be advocating for a millionaires’ tax in CT with proceeds going to public education. Why? Because public higher education is an investment in a state’s most essential resource: human capital.
General Electric left Connecticut for Boston not because of high taxes in our state but because, in Boston, GE would have access to a highly educated workforce. If Connecticut is to compete for businesses coming to our state, then we must invest in our students who will become an educated population that is workforce ready, able to problem solve, and to think critically around a host of issues. Closures, consolidations and cuts will not achieve the educated workforce that companies demand today.
The equation is simple: when more community members hold higher education degrees, tax revenues increase, and state spending on entitlements decreases. The research shows that those who hold college degrees earn higher incomes, are healthier, happier and live longer than those with only a high school diploma.[i] Connecticut would obtain increased tax revenues and decreased spending on social services and prisons when more of our citizens hold higher education degrees.[ii]
Balancing the budget on the backs of Connecticut students and at the expense of quality public higher education is akin to shooting oneself in the foot just as the marathon begins.
[i] Philip Trostel, “It’s Not Just the Money; the Benefits of College Education to Individuals and to Society” (Lumina Foundation, n.d.).
[ii] Philip Trostel, “The Fiscal Impacts of College Attainment” (New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, n.d.).