The proposal for substantive change presented by the Connecticut Board of Regents to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and College, (NEASC) called “Students First” offers many promises but little evidence and even less that is new except more budget cuts that diminish local campuses and the services they provide to their students and communities.
Ever proud of my heritage as a community college student, I have never reflected more deeply on the value of these institutions than over the recent years during which I have served on the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education. The Board, comprised of volunteers from many backgrounds, serves at a time when Connecticut’s 12 community colleges struggle to maintain services and affordability amid sharply reduced state funding and flat or declining population and enrollment. Previously, as chair of the Regents’ Finance Committee, I witnessed the recurring mantra of very good college administrators trying to make budgets work within a broader organizational structure that itself was becoming unsustainable.
As Connecticut struggles to embrace policies and programs that promote innovation and entrepreneurial exploration, neighboring states appear far more focused on long-term strategies for establishing a viable pipeline of workers able to meet marketplace demands. Connecticut should take note: Our state is failing its residents by not adequately focusing on early education needs, by not ensuring a well-lighted path to higher-education opportunities and by not doing everything in its power to make sure a college education is accessible and affordable.
It is not a surprise to see most college students outraged when a professor at Southern Connecticut State University was placed on leave after using the N-word. While I understand these students are upset and their emotions are high, it is more upsetting to me how they are addressing issues like these.
The “Students First” plan proposed by the CSCU Board of Regents, intended to save $28 million by consolidating the state’s 12 community colleges, has engendered frustration among system faculty due to the lack of visible research or analysis proving that the plan will realize the projected savings. Faculty, therefore, were taken by surprise when a recent CT Mirror article reported that the accrediting agency, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, had given feedback on a draft plan for the Students First initiative submitted to it by the Board of Regents.
The Board of Regents for Higher Education meets today to consider a consolidation of state community colleges. Since April, the deeply flawed proposal by state colleges and universities system president Mark Ojakian has been moving at warp speed, often under the radar. The board must slow it down. If not, the legislature must step in; should it too default, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting entity, must withhold its approval.
In 2011, a Board of Regents for Public Higher Education (BOR) was created to supposedly save money through centralization of functions and to assure smooth student transition from community colleges to universities. But students were deceived about the transfer process as smooth transfers can be achieved without this centralized boondoggle. Since 2011, after five presidents, all there is to show is nearly quarter billion taxpayer dollars wasted on a bloated central bureaucracy with 150 employees at an annual cost of $35 million, and several failed proposals to merge the community colleges and the state universities with reassuring names such as Transform 2020, Go Back to Get Ahead, and the current plan, Students First.
The state’s Board of Regents Dec. 14 will vote on a restructuring recommendation by Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian to fold the state’s 12 community colleges into one. The recommendation, which has been opposed by the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges and other organizations, purports to save some $28 million by eliminating duplication of services within the system … while, as a BOR slogan says, putting “Students First.” In reality, the plan places finances first and students as also-rans. For this reason, we at the 4Cs encourage BOR members to reject the recommended proposal.
It is a dark hour, indeed, right now for Connecticut community colleges. The Board of Regents (BOR) has proposed a shockingly bad reorganization plan, “Students First,” which will strip community colleges of their presidents, academic deans, and other top leadership, along with their unique identities, local traditions, and ties to local communities. This new BOR plan will transform our beloved community colleges into giant box stores. They will have plenty of merchandise, but no one around to help you find it. Be ready to wander around aimlessly asking, “Is there anyone running this place?” The answer, alas, will be “No.”
Connecticut is home to the largest proportion of Puerto Ricans in the continental United States, so it is expected that we will see one of the largest influxes of U.S. citizens coming from Puerto Rico to the mainland. Although it’s difficult to estimate the exact number of new arrivals, the state has received over 700 calls from people displaced from the Island and who need help.
The following is a letter to the alumni of the University of Hartford written by President Gregory S. Woodward.
Dear University of Hartford Alumni,
A student at the University of Hartford was recently the victim of some reprehensible acts by another student. This has been deeply upsetting to me and to the entire University of Hartford community. While the University is limited in our ability to legally answer many of the questions raised, we are working diligently to provide details and action steps surrounding this situation. …
Undergraduate and graduate students across Connecticut and the country should be marching in protest against the proposed new tax bill that will repeal numerous education deductions and credits and will tax graduate students. We need our next generation to be educated — not kept out of all educational opportunities as this proposal surely will cause. This proposed bill makes taxable the value of the tuition and other benefits universities give to their graduate teaching and research assistants. Ditto for education benefits offered by employers to their workers.