Fasano Raises Questions about UConn President’s Free Tuition & New Faculty Hiring Proposals

October 9, 2019

Today Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) wrote to University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas seeking more information and raising questions about President Katsouleas’ proposals to offer free tuition to low-income students and to launch new faculty hiring initiatives.

Both of these proposals were announced during the new President’s inauguration ceremony on Friday, October 4, 2019.

Given UConn’s repeated tuition increases and calls for more taxpayer funding year after year, Sen. Fasano raised questions about where the funding would come from to support these new proposals.

Full letter below and attached.

October 9, 2019

Dear President Katsouleas:

I would like to learn more about a proposal you announced at your inauguration to offer free tuition to certain lower-income Connecticut undergraduates starting at the university next fall at the same time you also plan to invest more in new faculty.

First, I would like to know what you estimate to be the cost of these new initiatives. While UConn’s spokesperson has indicated that these costs are not clear yet, I cannot imagine you would announce these plans if you were not certain UConn could afford these new expenses. I would appreciate any cost estimates you have.

Second, I would like to know how you plan to pay for these initiatives. Will the UConn Foundation be covering these new costs? I understand that some UConn Foundation funds are already designated to be spent for specific purposes. I would like to know how much funding the UConn Foundation has in total and what all funds have been designated for.

Third, if the UConn Foundation is not supporting these initiatives in full, or if not enough is raised from donors to support the new expenses, will you be increasing tuition, fees, or other costs on students? Will you be asking state taxpayers to pay more to the school through a General Fund appropriation or bonding?

UConn students have been asked for more and more year after year. Since 2013, tuition at UConn has increased by an average of nearly 7% each year, taking more from students at the same time prior administrations mismanaged funds, spending money on administrative bloat, raises, salaries for deceased professors and questionable priorities. Will tuition be increasing at all in the next two years? What about the next five years?

UConn has also come to the legislature repeatedly to ask for more taxpayer funding, citing the burden of growing fringe benefit costs although UConn never spoke out against the SEBAC agreements that caused these costs to increase steadily. Will UConn be asking for larger grants from the state this year? Will UConn be asking for a General Fund appropriation to pay for fringe benefit costs as UConn Health secured this year?

If UConn has such substantial budget problems that the school has required significant tuition increases and taxpayer funding increases, I am concerned about where the funding will come from to support the new proposals you outlined at your inauguration. As the President of UConn you cannot assess a tax on Connecticut residents if UConn does not have the funds to pay for something as that is only something the General Assembly has the authority to do after a full, transparent legislative process. Therefore, it is imperative that we have open lines of communication.

I also would like to follow up on our conversation this summer regarding UConn’s move to the Big East. We discussed the possibility of the UConn Foundation’s donors playing a role in paying for the expenses related to the move. I would like to know, what is the status of that proposal today?

I look forward to discussing these issues and ideas with you further.

Len Fasano
Senate Republican Leader