Despite massive state budget deficits that forced hundreds of thousands of dollars to be cut out of financial aid budgets of private universities throughout Connecticut, Fairfield University has minimized the losses from the cuts but is still vulnerable as the state legislature enters special session to pass a budget by the end of June.

As reported in The Mirror on Feb. 20, state budget deficits amounting to about $2 billion over the next two years resulted in a 15 percent cut to the Connecticut Independent Colleges Students, or CICS (pronounced “kicks”) grant program. Fairfield’s share of the shortfall was just under $300,000, but the university recouped money for the program by redirecting resources to financial aid after cutting the football and ice hockey programs earlier this year.

Susan Kadir, director of the Financial Aid program, was cautiously optimistic about the current budget deliberations in Hartford.

“The Appropriations Committee has recommended to the legislature that they do level funding for CICS,” said Kadir. If such funding is approved, said Kadir, CICS money will be distributed based on the number of Connecticut residents who attend each school on a full-time basis.

Based on current budget deliberations, Kadir said that Fairfield still stands to lose $100,000 in funding, and that number could go up to $400,000 if more cuts are made.

Judy Greiman, president of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, was also optimistic.

“While you never know what will happen until the negotiations are all over and the budget is finally signed by the governor, I think that our message has gotten through and that many of our supporters in the legislature have been asking that our cut be minimized,” Greiman said. “We will keep working over the next few weeks to make sure that we hold onto the money.”

Greiman also noted that the budget passed by the democrat-led legislature and subsequently vetoed by Gov. John G. Rowland “included an additional $3 million in CICS funding than had been in the governor’s original budget.”

“If the governor had signed this budget,” Greiman said, “the program would only have sustained an $800,000 cut rather than the originally proposed $3.8 million cut. Because of the veto, there will need to be a special session to complete the budget work.”

Asked if students or parents could do anything to help minimize the budget cuts, Greiman said, “Letters to legislators continue to be helpful. Students and their parents can go to our Web site to send letters to the six key leaders and the state budget chief encouraging them to keep our money in the next budget.”

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Overall, Kadir said the financial aid staff is doing everything they can to minimize the effect of the budget cuts, but it is an uphill battle.

“We’re never funded enough to give grants to all students demonstrating need,” said Kadir. “Unfortunately, this year the funds went quickly.”

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