Candidates for governor: Support elimination of the Board of Regents

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The courtyard at Manchester Community College.

It is now apparent to anyone paying attention that the Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) is a bloated failure that has not addressed, let alone solved, the very real challenges facing Connecticut’s community colleges and state universities.

After seven years and $250 million taxpayer dollars it has achieved nothing unless you count a succession of failed and worse presidents, forfeited opportunities and blatantly political staff selections, right up to the current life boating of OPM appointee Ben Barnes.

The looming question is, what will the next governor do? We call on the candidates for governor to speak in favor of ending the BOR scheme and reestablishing self-governance for the colleges and universities.

What should that self-governance look like? There is room for discussion on that.

The key problem for the state’s system of public higher education is the consolidation of the state universities with the community colleges under the Board of Regents. This action was highly disputed at the time and ultimately proved a failure because it ignored the very different needs of the students within the institutions. It took the “community” out of community colleges and the independent hearts from our state universities.

We ask that each of the gubernatorial candidates pledge that if elected they will both end the Board of Regents and create two task forces, one each for the community colleges and state universities.

These task forces should be appointed by mid-November and report their recommendations by mid-January. The task forces should include respected members of the state university and community college systems, with appointees serving on that task force dealing with his/her system.

The public higher education system is one of the most important issues facing our next governor. The future of Connecticut’s workforce and therefore the future of our economy hinges on fixing that system. Connecticut’s 12 community colleges and four state universities educate 85,000 students each year. The vast majority, some 80 percent, stay in Connecticut, work here and pay taxes after graduation.

If the next governor is serious about moving our state onto a sustainable, stable path, he must confront the future of public higher education and the disastrous failure of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

There is no other option.

Richard L. Judd is president emeritus of Central Connecticut State University. John A. Doyle is a former member of the board of trustees for the one-time Connecticut State University System. Matthew Warshauer is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and was recently awarded the university’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

What do you think?

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