The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education has voted in favor of a plan to consolidate the state’s 12 community colleges.
The Hartford Courant reports that the cost-saving plan is expected to result in $28 million in savings annually and reduce staff by about 200.
The proposal will now move to the accrediting body, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) for consideration at its April meeting.
If the association approves the plan, the board hopes to have a single statewide community college in place in July 2019.
“There’s going to continue to be folks who think this is the wrong direction and I understand that,” says Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University system, which oversees the colleges.
But Ojakian adds, “if we don’t take action, that there’s consequences that go well beyond next year, the next two years, the next three years."
Some faculty members have opposed the proposal; they argue that the colleges will lose their individual identities, that students will be hurt by the merger and that accreditation may be threatened.
To address concerns about accreditation, the regents amended the resolution to ensure that the consolidation will not go forward unless it is approved and accredited by NEASC.
Ojakian says the cuts that will be carried out will not directly affect students, but will be concentrated in administrative areas. The number of fullt-time faculty — 800 — will remain the same across the 12 community colleges.
The recommendation states that the existing structure of 12 stand-alone community colleges “presents inherent barriers… by encouraging competition among the colleges for scarce resources” and resulting in a duplicative administrative systems.
Services that would be reconfigured or consolidated include administrative, finance, human resources, institutional research and marketing.