By Jonathan Kopeliovich and Grace McFadden
On October 28, the University of Connecticut announced that they would be suspending the Connecticut Commitment, an initiative to provide free tuition to in-state students from households with an income of less than $50,000 a year.
This decision drew ire, especially because the university announced a fundraising campaign called the Fight On Fund for the athletics program only days after.
The Financial Aid Office has ensured that those who were already receiving funds under the Connecticut Commitment will continue to do so until they graduate.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said that the Connecticut Commitment costs $700,000 a year and would cost $5 million by its potential fourth year of implementation, according to an article from University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz. The university had difficulty raising funds after an initially strong campaign before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Despite these roadblocks, Katsouleas reaffirmed the university’s commitment to financial aid.
“What is certain is that we will continue the work of raising critical dollars to support our neediest students,” Katsouleas said. “The mission of ensuring that every deserving student admitted to UConn can attend the public flagship independent of their financial means remains core to who we are.”
The Connecticut Commitment is not the first budget cut that the university has made to reduce growing debt. In June 2020, UConn cut four sports teams: men’s cross country, men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s rowing. This cut was projected to save around $10 million over the next three years.
The Fight on Fund is categorized as unrestricted current use, a designation which means that UConn is at liberty to use the money as they see fit. The official fund page states that the funds will go toward resources like, “academic support, sports medicine, scholarship support, nutrition, COVID testing and mental health services, as well as help bridge the gap in operational resources.”
“This flexibility is key in today’s environment as the landscape is ever-changing, to continue to protect our top priorities for our student-athletes including their health, well-being and the overall experience,” the Fight on Fund website reads.
UConn’s athletic deficit totaled about $42.3 million in 2019, with football responsible for the largest debt at $13.3 million. The recently instituted Fight On Fund is supposed to address the deficit in the athletics department from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UConn Foundation will provide incentives for donating to the Fight On Fund, saying that donations made before March 31 will double donor points eligible toward benefits. Benefits include priority access to UConn sports tickets, discount on merchandise and more.
Some students were troubled with the cancellation of the Connecticut Commitment. A petition on Change.org, directed at President Katsouleas, urges UConn to reinstate the program. At the time of this writing, the petition had over 900 signatures.
Manuel Ramirez, a doctoral student studying sociology at UConn, commented on the cut.
“By halting the CT Commitment program, our university administration is choosing to suppress so many current and prospective students who dreamed of being part of our community,” Ramirez said in an email. “Cutting this program sends low-income students a message that they do not matter.”
With these recent developments, the future of the Connecticut Commitment program is in the air. The UConn Foundation hosts the fund and is still taking donations, but they are unsure where that money would go if the Connecticut Commitment is not reinstated.
Coast Starlight (Shimoda Shuffle) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2019 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/60685 Ft: shimoda, SiobhanD