Okjakian shares his revised Students First consolidation plan

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Dear CSCU Community,

This week the Board of Regents will convene to discuss, among other things, our proposed revisions to the Students First consolidation plan. In keeping with the promise to keep you informed, I am sharing our recommendation to the Board in advance of the meeting. I encourage all of you to review the Staff Report that will be discussed in detail during the Board meeting on Thursday.

After the NEASC response to our Students First proposal in April, members of the Board and my leadership staff have taken a number of steps to determine our path forward. First, we met with Dr. Barbara Brittingham from NEASC to review the Commission’s response. At Dr. Brittingham’s suggestion, we also met with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) who assisted NEASC in reviewing our original proposal.

They helped to identify ways to progress towards a more efficient organization while adhering to the BOR’s objectives of sustainable, quality, accessible public higher education, consistent with NEASC standards. CSCU college faculty, staff, and the Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) also offered suggestions for reaching the goals of removing barriers to student success, scaling best practices, streamlining administrative tasks, and aligning common procedures.

As a result, we are revising our Students First plan in three significant ways: extending our timeline for the single accredited community college to 2023 thereby keeping the 12 accreditations of the colleges, developing a more gradually paced academic planning and transition process, and maintaining the current department chair structure. The revised plan is estimated to save $17M when fully implemented versus the $23M as originally proposed. Our revised plan also includes:

  • Regionalizing our community colleges and creating a new leadership structure. We will hire three Regional Presidents in spring 2019, while maintaining the 12 college-based CEO, CFO, and CAO positions per NEASC standards.
  • Aligning college curricula statewide to support high quality educational programs and seamless transfer, including adoption of a statewide general education curriculum.
  • Implementing initiatives such as guided pathways to improve and increase student enrollment, retention, and completion.
  • Integrating administrative functions into centralized shared services.
  • Sharing resources across campuses to stabilize critical college functions, reduce redundancies, and leverage expertise.
  • Hiring a number of positions to raise additional income for the system including a VP of Enrollment Management and a CSCU Development Officer.

Our goal remains the same, to create a dynamic community college focused on helping students attain their individual educational goals, and responds to community and state needs. We also recognize that more time is needed to get the foundation in place for a change as large as this.

Beginning this fall, as directed by the Board, we will implement the immediate next steps of regionalizing the college structure, selecting new leadership, integrating and centralizing administrative functions, implementing Guided Pathways and aligning curriculum statewide. CSCU will establish metrics to document the results of regional reorganization, administrative integration, and academic and student affairs planning, to help identify areas for continued improvement. We will keep NEASC staff apprised of our efforts and invite them to attend future BOR Academic and Student Affairs committee meetings so that we may discuss our progress and prepare for the single accreditation process.

I want to thank everyone for their engagement in this important work, particularly those who are planning this summer for the Guided Pathways initiative. I will continue to provide updates on the progress and challenges related to implementation and new opportunities for our students and our colleges.

Mark E. Ojakian is President of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities.

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