Over 300 million Sk ($8.6 million) that was originally earmarked in the state budget for Slovak universities has been frozen, plunging the schools into deep financial trouble that may lead to their closure.
Finance Minister Miroslav Maxon took the decision to freeze the funds despite the government's assurance that the its general clampdown on fiscal spending would not touch universities. "We cannot bear responsibility for a situation we didn't create," said Ferdinand Devínsky, chancellor of Comenius University, Slovakia's largest, at a press conference in Bratislava on September 30.
According to Devínsky, the cutbacks mean Comenius will have to close school buildings and student dormitories, and will not be able to pay its teachers. Several buildings have already been closed for lack of funds from the state, Devínsky said.
On September 10, the balance sheet of the National Bank of Slovakia showed that the Slovak state had less than 50,000 Sk ($1,400) to its credit. The Finance Ministry has since been accepting record yields on state paper in an attempt to obtain funds to cover state expenditures. Sergej Kozlík, vice Premier with special responsibility for the economy, attempted to reassure the public with the declaration that it was not unusual for a normal state to have no funds to its credit.
But Juraj Stern, chancellor of Bratislava's Economic University, said that "I am sorry that such a thing was said by Mr. Kozlík, a graduate of our school." Stern said his university had 4.5 million Sk in outstanding debt, and that "we couldhave closed the school yesterday."