Board of Regents visits Southern
Alex Palmieri – News Writer
The Board of Regents made an appearance at Southern Connecticut University on Friday, Sept. 16, for a meeting in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom.
The Board of Regents sets a statewide tuition, student fee policies, and establishes financial aid policies. They also hold broad responsibilities for development and coordination of statewide higher education policy. Connecticut combined the governance of twelve community colleges and four state universities under the Board of Regents for Higher Education, which came into effect July 1, 2011.
President Joe Bertolino made an appearance at the meeting. He said his administration will continue to contribute to social justice ensuring all students reach success.
“I ask the members of our Southern family,” said Bertolino, “to make every effort to treat each other with dignity, with respect, with civility, with kindness and with compassion. This social justice initiative is one of six presidential priorities that I have identified as I begin my tenure. The others include enhancing enrollment management, by identifying and resolving issues related to financial aid and retention.”
Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut state colleges and universities, said now is the time where Connecticut is facing tough times such as budget cuts, but things could have been a lot worse. He said his goal is to establish a better relationship with system offices and campuses.
“We work closely to manage budget challenges,” said Ojakian. “We face difficult times next year. We need to advocate.”
Ojakian said they successfully advocated and included all of the bond relegation requests. He said they also secured $72.8 million from the bond commission. Ojakian added they were able to increase student financial aid through hard work with the legislature.
“We try to lead by example,” said Ojakian. “We are also encouraging creativity in our approach to getting revenue in, especially through tuition.”
What Ojakian wants to do is focus on a plan. He said he wants to see how the future of the system will look, based on what the budget will look like within the next three to five years. Once that is established, he said there needs to be a system proposal so he understands the proper way to operate. He added that budgets continue to be cut and discussions are continuing.
“I’ve seen challenges and failures in the past,” said Ojakian. “This part is difficult. We need to make extremely tough decisions.”
Barbara Richards, sociology professor and vice-chair of the college senate at Housatonic Community College, as well as the vice-chair of the FAC to the Board of Regents of Higher Education, said there are a few specific issues that need to be looked at as people are living in a new atmosphere. She said there is a major change in the satisfactory academic progress financial aid standard. System-wide, the Board of Education has changed it to give students more of a chance at the beginning of their college career, when they first come to succeed.
“We need to make sure we catch the students who are having trouble right at the beginning, [of their college career] do counseling with them and help them to actually use that extra time to succeed. But we are doing it together,” Richards said.
The Board of Regents also passed a pilot tuition program for Western Connecticut State University. This is a two year offer of instate tuition. Richard Balducci, chairman of the finance panel, said with this being passed, it will alleviate physical challenges the university has been facing.
“This will increase enrollment,” said Balducci.
Chris Edmunds, senior marketing and economics major, did not attend the meeting, but said he wants a solution from this meeting that does not involve spending more money. Edmunds said there is enough money spent in schools and there should be lowered prices.
“Books that we rent and pay for,” said Edmunds, “are all overpriced. I clearly have no say over what should or what shouldn’t happen. But I would want cheaper prices.”
Edmunds said the Board of Regents and Southern should work on an agreement because all universities are competing against each other. With financial aid being a concern in all schools across the country, Edmunds said financial aid is the biggest problem the Board of Regents should focus on.
“A lot of schools can beat Southern in the financial aid problems if we don’t step up,” said Edmunds. “So that is the one thing I would want to see the Board of Regents and Southern come to agreement on.”
Photo Credit: Alex Palmieri – News Writer