As Connecticut continues to engage in a yearly struggle to balance its budget, some pundits question the long-term benefits of continuing to invest in our private colleges and universities. Typically the debate drifts to costs, property values, traffic congestion, post-graduate job prospects and cultures of drinking and partying. It’s easy in this chaos of misdirection to not see the books for the library, metaphorically speaking. In reality, the overall value a college or university provides to surrounding communities and its host state are innumerable.
I have the hard-earned privilege of being a professor at Southern Connecticut State University — a major regional educational institution whose research and teaching provide an immediate and enduring benefit to New Haven and the whole state. I am proud of my students, colleagues, and school; at the same time, I am disappointed with system politics and Connecticut’s willingness to construct a two-tiered system for its students in higher education: The University of Connecticut and everyone else.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, is asking some very good questions about the role and responsibilities of the Board of Regents for the CSCU System. In a report on WSHU and an article in the Hartford Courant of Aug. 18, she asks if the board is “adding value, providing leadership, accountability, and fiscal responsibility” and even questions its existence in proposed legislation to eliminate the board. After little over four years of existence, the Board of Regents has seen numerous leaders fail, repeated votes of no confidence, ongoing cost increases in tuition and fees, declines in college budgets and enrollments, and the loss of experience and expertise that has led to low morale and high cost opportunities for consultants who must shore up drastically reduced, under-resourced operations. Now, with the resignation of the system’s second President Gregory Gray, which is not effective until the end of the year, the Board of Regents rushes to appoint Gov. Dannel Malloy’s soon-to-retire chief of staff as the new “interim” president for two years rather than promptly launch a search for a competent educational leader.
Many assumed the next president of the Connecticut State College and University System would have an extensive background in education. Some are disappointed with the recent news, but, the appointment of the Gov. Dannel Malloy’s chief of staff as interim president for the Connecticut State College and University System has nothing to do with education. My read of the tea leaves is that the appointment is based upon the primary strength of the appointee which is collective bargaining experience and budget and finance expertise.
The National Council on Disability reported this year that students with disabilities are entering higher education at roughly the same rate as their non-disabled peers. But current research reflects that only 34 percent of students in this demographic are completing a four year degree after eight years. So parents and students need to assure that the institution they are considering understands the law and has the resources available to meet the student’s individual needs. If your college-bound student is one of the estimated 2 million students with a disability, there are some important issues to consider.
Much has been said about the impact of corporate tax increases on corporations that are major employers in Connecticut, and their potential relocation to more tax-friendly states. Debate on the impact on hospitals has focused on CEO compensation and past profit margins. This focus misses an important fact; the role hospitals play in training the next generation of physicians for the state.
I have never believed that the University of Connecticut’s interests in seizing control of the Alumni Association was about its assets. But if this is not the case, why has the university worked so hard in recent days to ask alumni to vote yes when it already has assumed responsibilities for alumni activities?
The students of Three Rivers Community College are frustrated with the way money is being spent at our school, while we, the students, continue to lack support for our community outreach projects that not only better our own educations, but support the school’s efforts to be an example of good stewardship, sustainability, and to benefit our community.
At many organizations, there comes a time when fundamental change is required because a “crossroads” of sorts has been reached. In business parlance this is sometimes referred to as the “burning platform.” CSCU has reached such a point in time where all stakeholders must come together and agree that “business as usual” is no longer an option.
The University of Connecticut provides Connecticut’s knowledge infrastructure. As with our underfunded transportation infrastructure, failing to provide base adequacy funding now will not only have immediate harm but will produce cascading consequences. Deep cuts in the current biennial budget (and perhaps the next) will impair UConn for the next decade. To the taxpayers and General Assembly of Connecticut, I urge: Maintain UConn’s state funding.
During a budget crunch It’s easy to blame administrative bloat and the regional office for a college system’s ills, but can we afford independent college infrastructures or do we need a system or regional infrastructure to provide economies of scale? How important is local decision-making and in particular academic control? How do we maximize teaching resources when current funding is simply not sufficient to meet both student demand and overall organizational operating needs?