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JFC pursues DSU budget requests not met by Gov. Carney, UD requests additional funds

Brad Glazier
Delaware Public Media

In his recommended budget, Gov. John Carney appropriated close to $2.4 million of the $3.7 million funding increase Delaware State University (DSU) requested.

One of the funding requests the governor chose not to recommend is $500,000 for the development of a master of clinical psychology program.

University of Delaware (UD) is currently the only higher education institution in Delaware with this program, and the majority of Joint Finance Committee (JFC) members acknowledge a lack of quality mental health providers in the state.

“Here we have a university that says, ‘Yeah, we agree too. We want to build a program so that we can start offering people training – Delaware residents training – to do that, to come practice in Delaware.’ That’s exactly what we need, and I think we ought to find a way to help them with this," State Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D-Middletown) says.

"There are people suffering today throughout Delaware who cannot get good psychology care, and if we have a university, right here, that's willing to help try and fill that need, I think we should do everything we can to support their budget request," State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D- Brandywine West) adds.

Committee members also noted a specific shortage in school psychologists across the state.

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one school psychologist per 500 students. Delaware’s ratio was 1 school psychologist for every 902 students in 2019-2020.

Office of Management and Budget Director Cerron Cade says the decision to leave the funding request out of the governor’s recommended budget was not to imply the program isn’t valuable, but solely that not every request can be met.

"My opportunity to be at Delaware State and build capacity for clinical psychologists, because, guess what, our teachers aren't trained psychologists and shouldn't have that as a burden to them actually educating folks — we think is clear. So, all I can say is, and I'd say this for our brothers and sisters at Del Tech and University of Delaware, we're going to need your support to get this right, and we do not think that not funding it is appropriate in that regard," DSU president Tony Allen said to JFC.

He adds without state funding, the university will not give up on pursuing developing the masters program, but it would require a difficult budget decision.

Carney recommended a 6.5% funding increase for UD in his 2025 budget plan, rather than the 8.2% increase the university requested, but UD President Dennis Assanis asked JFC for additional funding for the First State Promise tuition assistance program and health insurance support.

Carney recommended $2.5 million be spent on First State Promise, but Assanis urged JFC to fund the university's full $4.2 million request. Currently, UD contributes $15 million to the tuition assistance program, and he hopes the state will match that number in the future.

The $4.2 million increase would be on top of the $5 million the state has already committed, brining the state contribution to a potential $9.2 million.

Additionally, Assanis is asking JFC for financial assistance to help cover its current $34 million increase in health insurance payments.

“Mitigating the impact of these costs will require significant reductions in our programs and services, which at the end of the day, will end up hurting everybody," Assanis says.

He says he recognizes UD is not the only state funded entity facing these increases, but the university is unique because it is responsible for covering what would normally be the state’s share of health insurance costs.

He adds that UD is currently deferring any capital improvement project that is less than two-thirds of the way complete to help save money, but says those postponements are only a short-term solution.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
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