Tuition at Connecticut’s community colleges – including Norwalk Community College and Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport – could end up costing more than at the state’s universities by fiscal year 2021 if action isn’t taken to address the system’s fiscal issues soon, warned Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, in a letter to state lawmakers.
Clearly stung by accrediting body the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ rejection earlier this week of his plan to consolidate CSCU’s 12 community colleges into one system – a move he maintained would save $28 million annually – Ojakian wrote: “Without the savings from the community college consolidation, the colleges will be financially insolvent by FY20. If we balance this deficit solely on tuition and fee increases, tuition at the community colleges would more than double from $4,276 to $10,200 per year by FY21. This would price the community colleges higher than current tuition for a state university, and over $4,000 more than the maximum Pell Grant award.”
The “shortsighted” NEASC decision, Ojakian wrote, “means the fiscal emergency our institutions and students are facing continues to get worse, as next year the colleges are now staring down a deficit of $35.2M, and $144M in cumulative deficits by FY21.”
The situation for CSCU’s state university members, which includes Danbury’s Western Connecticut State and Charter Oak State College in New Britain, is equally daunting, Ojakian said.
“The CSUs are projecting a $15.4M deficit next year and will be insolvent in FY21. While COSC is projecting a $743K deficit next year, leading to their imminent insolvency. In order to cover this deficit, the CSUs would need to increase their tuition and fees from $10,526 to $15,158, and COSC would almost double from $7,702 to $14,000 by FY21.”
He concluded: “This letter is to advise the General Assembly that the decisions you make to close our budget deficit in the next two weeks will determine our course of action. The ability to mitigate these unacceptable tuition increases and campus closures now lies with you. I implore you all, to help me protect our students and their futures.”
Meanwhile, Hector Navarro, the chair of the CSCU Student Advisory Committee and a student at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, wrote to Barbara Brittingham, president of NEASC’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, to protest the agency’s decision to reject the CSCU plan. Brittingham responded that she would be open to meeting with him; Angelo Simoni, Jr., the executive director of student relations and compliance for CSCU; and/or others “if you would find that helpful.”