As Connecticut faces fiscal challenges driven by the high cost of state employee pay and benefits, a state audit highlights the fact that the two largest income sources for Eastern Connecticut State University – tuition and state support – don't even cover compensation for its employees.
In fiscal year 2013, ECSU took in $32.6 million from student tuition and paid nearly $76 million in employee pay and benefits. The university also received $40.5 million from state appropriations but could not bridge the gap between revenue and the costs of its mostly-union workforce.
ECSU expected to increase tuition by 5 percent to cover increased costs, according to a university document. However, thanks to additional state aide of $1.4 million, the university only had to raise tuition by 2 percent that year. Full-time student enrollment in the university has fallen flat and the number of part-time students is declining. The ECSU document goes on to note that students "would have been negatively impacted" without these additional funds.
Besides tuition and state appropriations, the largest revenue source for ECSU was through auxiliary income sources such as housing, food service and continuing education fees. However, the total revenue for the 2013 year was still $5 million less than their total expenses including depreciation.
Despite the financial challenges, employee wages are rising. ECSU’s employee pay overall will increase by 5.5 percent for the second consecutive year. Wages were frozen in 2012 as part of a two-year agreement with the unions. It is not just professors driving costs. University officers and administrators earn healthy pay, too. ECSU’s president earned more than $450,000 in wages and fringe benefits. Others, such as the associate vice president on equity and diversity make well over $200,000 per year.
“Enrollment alone will not yield the increased revenue stream that Eastern has experienced in past years,” according to an ECSU projection. "Therefore, while the 2.0 percent increase in tuition for Fiscal Year 2015 will generate additional revenues, we must continue to be cautious in allocating those additional resources."
As lawmakers mull where to make budget cuts Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, announced last week that he would not immediately be giving scheduled raises to non-union university employees, including those at ECSU. Ojakian said he was deferring the raises for about 300 state employees until the end of the legislative session and collective-bargaining negotiations.