Today: Jul 14, 2024

State approves higher ed merger

MICHAEL BELLMORE, STAFF WRITER:
In a page long press release, Mark Ojakian, the deputy secretary of the Office of Policy Management, and Roberta Willis, state representative and Higher Education chairman, announced that the state will enact Governor Dannel Malloy’s controversial plan to consolidate the Connecticut State University system with Connecticut’s community college system and Charter Oak.
“By flattening out administration costs and overhead,” Ojakian said in the press release, “we can direct more money to our students and classroom instruction.”
According to the release, the plan will see the elimination of the current state-level administrative boards that oversee Connecticut’s institutions of higher education. A single, over-arching board of regents will begin operation on July 1; the old boards will be phased out during a six-month period after that.
“From what I understand is this – it’ll save the initial money once the system office has changed,” said Benjamin McNamee, the incoming CSU board of trustees student representative. “I think it said there will be a $4 million savings.”
It will save money on the administration, McNamee said, but he was doubtful as to whether those savings are worthwhile in the long run. It expands the system, he said, meaning, in the long run, only more money will be pumped into it. McNamee said this was a one time cut, and, in politics, he added, one time cuts never solve anything.
Mike Shea, chair of the English Department at SCSU and the president of SCSU’s chapter of the AAUP, said he agreed that an attempt to reorganize the higher administration might save money.
“We ourselves would have just as soon preferred a reorganization of the system office so that less money was being spent there and more money was coming to the campuses and to the students,” Shea said. “This has nothing to do with whether the community
colleges and the universities are together.”
The consequences of such a merger are another issue, said Shea. While he didn’t believe the state universities were going to be turned into community colleges or vice versa, he said he feared the merger could lead to a homogenization of the missions of the different institutions.
Under the current system, in which the CSU and community college systems have their own boards, McNamee said both have administrations with the ability to seek to further the specific mission of their schools.
“Now, those two systems are kind of combined. You have one board that is overseeing both things,” McNamee said. “You’ll have about the same amount of people trying to do twice as much work. And whenever that happens, somebody’s interests have to be pushed to the side.”
In the press release, Willis said, “Additional items still need to be worked out – more specifics on structure, for example. For me, though, this is a leap of faith worth taking.”
But Shea said he would like to see a more clear cut plan first. A plan detailing how this new board of regents will work has not yet been put forward, at least not to the public. McNamee too, said he was wary.
“Because of the success of the CSU system in the last five years, I think it’s an unnecessary leap of faith,” McNamee said.
Tim Parrish, English professor and the founder of the MFA program, said he didn’t see any rationale behind the merger other than short-term money saving.
“Why you’d put people making decisions about four year institutions that also have terminal degree graduate programs on a board with two year associate degree programs or college prep programs or four year prep programs, with other people who are going to be going after vocational jobs is just beyond me.,” he said. “The missions are radically different.”

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