WNPR

Higher Education Officials Roll Out Plan for System Consolidation

Oct 20, 2017

The state's 12 community colleges could become consolidated into a single school by mid-2019. The 12 campuses would remain open, but would be renamed the Connecticut Community College.

The plan is called Students First, and it's expected to save Connecticut taxpayers about $28 million as it's rolled out over the next few years. Most of those savings would come from cutting 36 top administrative positions -- three at each college.

Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, the state's 17-college system, led a team of college presidents, deans and others over the last six months to come up with the consolidation plan.

"This is a continuum of a conversation that started when I first became president back in 2015,” Ojakian told the Board of Regents at its October 19 meeting. “And that was the need to look at the structure of our system that made sense moving forward, that dealt with our structural deficit that we had at the time and continues to grow as state support continues to decline."

When the Board of Regents for Higher Education discussed the plan, many of them, including Larry DeNardis, liked the idea.

"What we will do to implement your proposal will be in my opinion the savior of the system. The situation is that dire, and is getting worse,” DeNardis said.

It's being framed as way to offer better services to students. It would make it easier for students to apply to all campuses at once. There also wouldn't be a need to transfer credits, which right now can be a confusing process. And applying for financial aid would be streamlined.

Recently, faculty and staff raised concerns about the loss of local control. Ojakian pointed out that the campuses would not be closed, and professors would still have the academic freedom to deliver courses in their own way. Programs that are unique to each campus would remain available, he said.

Concerns were also raised about cutting financial aid positions, but Ojakian said that's being explored carefully. If the plan goes through, Connecticut Community College would be the fifth largest in the country.