Merging community colleges could save state $28M

Published on Wednesday, 6 December 2017 20:00


HARTFORD - State education officials say a plan to consolidate Connecticut’s 12 community colleges would mean the loss of almost 200 jobs and save about $28 million.

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University system, says a merger would not result in the loss of faculty positions or any positions that deal directly with students. All of the existing community college campuses will remain open under the plan. The cuts would come in areas that do not affect students directly, including administrative services, human resources, and information technology.

The plan is part of a strategy designed to address the system’s financial problems created in part by the state’s poor financial outlook and cutbacks to higher education funding.

The CSCU system’s chief financial officer Erika Steiner says without taking steps, tuition would double and the system would drain its reserves over five years.

The consolidation plan will be presented to the Board of Regents for Higher Education’s finance committee Dec. 13 and, if endorsed, to the entire Board of Regents on Dec. 14.

“I believe we have the opportunity to come together and share resources as one institution, with unique campuses,” said James Lombella, president of Asnuntuck Community College and interim president of Tunxis Community College.

“We will still have our Tunxis name as well as our foundation that will support the Tunxis campus and all the wonderful programs that we offer,” Lombella said in a prepared statement. “In my dual presidency role, I have already experienced savings and sharing of resources that otherwise would not be possible or recognized. In our current fiscal situation, this plan provides the opportunity for our campuses to become sustainable and enhance the services we provide to our students.”

In a statement posted online, Ojakian said “the time is now to fully embrace the potential of our system” by “developing a system in which interrelated and interdependent entities come together around a common goal.”

“Over the last several years because Connecticut is facing serious fiscal difficulties, our state funding has declined by 12.4 percent. Forty one percent of our total revenue comes from state appropriations which for the community colleges is 60 percent of their overall funding. We are facing at least a $35 million decrease for the next fiscal year and that assumes $700 million in from labor savings. These reductions follow successive years of budget cuts, rescissions, lapses, and holdbacks that have eaten away at the state revenues that fund our institutional missions,” he said.

Cutting costs has helped the system to address immediate budget shortfalls but these strategies have reduced student services and will not lead to long-term sustainability, he continued.

Ojakian said he is recommending to the Board of Regents two strategies for immediate implementation. The first is an administrative consolidation across all institutions and system office of non-student facing/administrative personnel, with the goal of saving approximately $13 million.

The consolidation plan is his second recommendation. “This strategy calls for the significant reduction of campus leadership and management in addition to the administrative consolidation called for in the first recommendation,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or Follow Susan Corica on Twitter @coricaBP.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Wednesday, 6 December 2017 20:00. Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2017 20:03.