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CSCU offers up revised college consolidation plan

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Having been rejected by its accrediting agency once, the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system is ready to present a revised plan to consolidate its 12 community colleges into one system.

CSCU President Mark Ojakian

CSCU President Mark Ojakian – the architect of its “Students First” plan to combine the 12 schools into one system, which he said would save millions of dollars a year in administrative costs – will formally present his revised plan to the group’s Board of Regents on Thursday. The board had approved Ojakian’s original draft, which failed to be okayed by accrediting agency the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in April.

In a letter distributed throughout the CSCU system, Ojakian wrote that he, board members and members of his leadership staff had met with Barbara Brittingham, president of the NEASC’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, who in turn suggested they meet with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, which assisted NEASC in reviewing the original proposal.

“They helped to identify ways to progress towards a more efficient organization while adhering to the (Board of Regents’) objectives of sustainable, quality, accessible public higher education, consistent with NEASC standards,” Ojakian wrote. “CSCU college faculty, staff, and the Faculty Advisory Committee also offered suggestions for reaching the goals of removing barriers to student success, scaling best practices, streamlining administrative tasks, and aligning common procedures.”

The new Students First plan extends CSCU’s timeline for the single accredited community college to 2023, thereby keeping the 12 accreditations of the colleges, developing a more gradually paced academic planning and transition process, and maintaining the current department chair structure.

The revised plan also includes the following:

  • Regionalizing the 12 community colleges and creating a new leadership structure by hiring three Regional Presidents in spring 2019, while maintaining the 12 college-based CEO, CFO, and CAO positions per NEASC standards. Region 3, or “Shoreline-West,” would include Fairfield County’s two CSCU member schools, Norwalk Community College and Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport;
  • Aligning college curricula statewide to support high-quality educational programs and seamless transfer, including adoption of a statewide general education curriculum;
  • Implementing initiatives such as guided pathways to improve and increase student enrollment, retention and completion;
  • Integrating administrative functions into centralized shared services;
  • Sharing resources across campuses to stabilize critical college functions, reduce redundancies and leverage expertise; and
  • Hiring a number of positions to raise additional income for the system, including a vice president of Enrollment Management and a CSCU Development Officer.

Ojakian said the revised plan would save $17 million when fully implemented, as opposed to the $23 million as originally proposed.

“Our goal remains the same – to create a dynamic community college focused on helping students attain their individual educational goals – and responds to community and state needs,” he wrote. “We also recognize that more time is needed to get the foundation in place for a change as large as this.”

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