A bill that would require legislative approval for the consolidation or closing of institutions within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system has unanimously passed the state’s Higher Education Committee – potentially dealing a blow to CSCU President Mark Ojakian’s attempt to save money by consolidating its 12 community colleges.
Ojakian’s “Students First” plan calls for the consolidation to take place in 2023 and the gradual elimination of 117 jobs, mostly administrative in nature. Proponents of that new plan say it will save the system an estimated $17 million per year.
That proposal is a revision of an original plan – which sought the elimination of 163 positions – that failed to win approval from accrediting body the New England Association of Schools and Colleges last April. Ojakian has said he hopes to resubmit the consolidation plan to NEASC in time to implementation consolidation by 2023.
Senate Bill 749, which now goes to the full state Senate, would require a majority vote in both chambers to approve a consolidation or closing of any CSCU school, but a majority vote in only one chamber to reject such a proposal. If the General Assembly does not act within one year of being notified of a merger or closure proposal, that would be interpreted as tacit approval.
The CSCU has been wrestling with ways to make up what Ojakian has said could be “a $57 million shortfall with the community colleges and state universities — and would necessitate tuition increases, drawdowns of dwindling reserves or likely both.”
Earlier this week the CSCU’s Board of Regents for Higher Education voted in favor of a 5 percent tuition increase for students at its four regional universities, which include Danbury’s Western Connecticut State, and indicated that a separate tuition increase for those attending the state’s community colleges is also likely on the way.