Conn. plans college consolidation
1 board of regents for 16 institutions
HARTFORD — A plan to consolidate the management of four Connecticut state universities and its 12 community colleges has won a spot in the budget deal between Governor Dannel P. Malloy and the Legislature’s Democratic majority, officials said yesterday.
The proposal creates a board of regents to oversee the two-year community colleges, Charter Oak State College and the four-year Central, Southern, Eastern, and Western Connecticut state universities.
Almost 94,000 students attend the schools.
Malloy and his plan’s supporters say it would save about $4.3 million annually by eliminating duplication among the schools’ governing boards. They say that will let Connecticut spend less on administration and more on education initiatives that directly affect students.
Dozens of students and administrators — particularly those involved with the community colleges — recently testified at the Capitol to oppose the plan, saying they worry the two-year schools might be placed second to the four-year universities.
Several lawmakers have also expressed concerns.
Mark Ojakian, deputy secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, said the budget compromise between Malloy’s office and leaders of the Democratic majority includes establishing the board of regents effective July 1. That group would take over the work currently done by four boards that run the state higher education department, Connecticut State University System, Charter Oak State College, and the Connecticut community colleges.
“One of the intentions of the proposal is that more of the dollars spent on higher education will go to delivery of services for the students. We would propose to eliminate some of the unnecessary layers of bureaucracy that exist and move those dollars down toward the students,’’ Ojakian said.
The University of Connecticut is not part of the proposal. Its Storrs flagship campus, five regional campuses, and other school sites in Hartford and Farmington would continue to run under direction of its 21-member board of trustees.
The state’s new board of regents would not immediately take over all facets of running the other colleges and universities on July 1, though, even if the General Assembly approves the plan in the budget bill.
Ojakian said yesterday that specifics are still being worked out about the transition, including administrative staffing, compensation, collective bargaining, and other issues.
Some lawmakers said they have concerns and doubts about the proposal, particularly to ensure that policies and spending do not tilt in favor of the four-year universities to the detriment of the two-year schools.
“I still continue to have concerns about the proposal, particularly in regard to the mission of the community colleges,’’ said state Representative Roberta Willis, a Democrat from Salisbury and cochairwoman of the Legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.
“I’m afraid that among other things that they’ll lose their ability to be responsive to work force needs and the needs of businesses, which is very different from the role that the Connecticut State University System plays,’’ she said.
Willis said she supports the idea of cutting administrative duplication and making it easier for students to transfer class credits between state colleges and universities, and she praised Malloy for pushing those initiatives.
Those issues were also important to state Senator Beth Bye, a West Hartford Democrat and Willis’s cochairwoman of the higher education committee.