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Funding for the initiative is still to be finalized; the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system estimates it could cost as much as $15 million.
"Too often, we see things happening and we just ignore it," said Eddie Martinez of TOP Station in Bridgeport.
“There is always going to be a reaction to substantial change,” says newly installed CSCU regional president Thomas Coley, whose oversight includes Bridgeport's Housatonic and Norwalk Community College, “which is what you’re witnessing now. It takes time and conversation.”
According to revised estimates from the state comptroller’s office, the cost of fringe benefits will be less than expected, though the precise impact on such community colleges as Norwalk and Housatonic is uncertain.
The system’s community colleges include Norwalk Community College and Bridgeport’s Housatonic Community College.
Meanwhile, faculty at five community colleges and two state universities have delivered votes of no confidence in a plan to consolidate the state's 12 community colleges into one system.
Average tuition and fees at CSCU universities -- including WestConn in Danbury -- will increase by $479 or 4.4 percent for an in-state undergraduate commuter student and by $860 or 3.6 percent for in-state residential students.
A final vote on the proposed 5 percent increase at Danbury's Western Connecticut State and three other universities will take place on March 28.
The event has grown from a handful of participants and awards to one that this year featured hundreds of attendees and the recognition of 57 companies throughout New England.
"There are many new members in the General Assembly this year, so we have to educate them about our system and what we do," says Ojakian of the organization that's weighing a variety of tuition scenarios for the 2019-20 school year.
The Westport resident will remain with the State Colleges and Universities system as Presidential Fellow from July 1 to June 30, 2020.
The study is part of CSCU’s ongoing effort to prove to state lawmakers – and Gov.-elect Ned Lamont – the need for economic support.
Among the schools in the CSCU system are Norwalk Community College, Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
During a recent investors’ conference, Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson noted that Frappuccino sales were down 3 percent in the company’s U.S. stores since 2015. The reason, he explained, was a consumer shift away from sugary and high-calorie drinks.
The revised “Students First” plan calls for the consolidation to take place in 2023, the hiring of three regional presidents in 2019 and the gradual elimination of 117 jobs, mostly administrative in nature.