Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a sweeping plan to overhaul the state’s higher education governance and structure, saying it will provide more resources for classroom teaching and instruction and increase the number of students receiving degrees.
It was one of a rapid-fire succession of reforms and budget positions announced by Malloy in February, proposals that include increases to the state’s income and sales tax rates.
Malloy wants to eradicate the boards for the Connecticut State University System, the state’s community colleges, Charter Oak State College and the Board of Governors for Higher Education, and instead combine their authority under one Board of Regents for Higher Education.
Among other directives, he would then ask regents to develop an “affordability” index pegging tuition, board and fees to median incomes in Connecticut; and a formula to distribute taxpayer money to campuses on the basis of enrollment, attainment of identified policy goals, and other unspecified factors.
In other words, campuses that are not drawing students or delivering graduates in needed areas could see their state support cut.
The Malloy plan would affect three Fairfield County schools – Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport and Norwalk Community College. The University of Connecticut, which is readying for the arrival of new President Susan Herbst, would continue to function separately, including its branch campus in Stamford.
“Tuition has increased, and the time it takes to earn a degree at these institutions exceeds the traditional four- or two-year curriculum,” Malloy said in a statement. “The Connecticut State University System and community colleges in Connecticut spend less of their total operating budget on teaching than comparable northeastern states.
“This won’t be easy, and certainly there are a lot of people listening to this who believe things are fine just the way they are,” he said. “I disagree, and that’s why I’m proposing this overhaul to help put more money toward teaching and less toward central office and board hierarchy. We need to adapt to a broad and changing economy and this will help us do that.”
The question becomes whether Malloy will reach outside the system to identify a new chancellor – or indeed the state. Minnesota, which Malloy cited as a model for his plan, in early February promoted a former Yale University professor to the position of chancellor, over the commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education who was the other finalist.
Last year, four Minnesota community colleges were listed in Washington Monthly’s annual list of the top 50 institutions in the country – no Connecticut school was included on the list.
Malloy is still fresh off his post-election endorsement of Michael Meotti as commissioner of higher education, one of the few holdovers from the administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell to receive a vote of confidence from Malloy.
David Carter, the former president of Eastern Connecticut State University, has served as chancellor of the Connecticut State University System since 2006. Marc Herzog is chancellor of the Connecticut Community College System, having been promoted through the system after starting out in financial aid at Tunxis Community College in Farmington.
Even as Malloy readies to overhaul the state’s higher education system, Norwalk Community College was included among 40 institutions nationally piloting the Voluntary Framework for Accountability program, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. VFA aims to move community colleges from assessing success by the number of degrees awarded, to a more comprehensive set of metrics that helps schools better measure themselves against peer institutions.