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A Community College Consolidation Plan in Slow Motion Proposed

Connecticut community colleges would not merge for another five years under a plan being presented to the state’s Board of Regents for Higher Education on Thursday.

System President Mark Ojakian is not abandoning his proposal to create one accredited community college with 12 campuses — among them, Norwalk, Housatonic in Bridgeport, Gateway in New Haven and Naugatuck Valley — but said he is recommending the Students First timeline be extended to 2023.

“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,” Ojakian said. “We also recognize that more time is needed to get the foundation in place for a change as large as this.”

Providing a more gradually paced planning and transition process may satisfy the accrediting body that called the initial plan “unrealistic” but would also save less, Ojakian said.

The consolidation was supposed to save $23 million. Now it is $17 million.

The Board of Regents is set to meet Thursday to discuss revisions to the plan that has been loudly panned by a number of system faculty.

Last month, the Norwalk Community College Senate voted unanimously to ask the board to drop its consolidation plan.

The faculty senate at New Britain’s Central Connecticut State University, meanwhile voted to ask for Ojakian’s resignation and the abolition of the Board of Regents.

Immediate faculty reaction to the new plan was not available.

The consolidation plan was designed to cut costs and reduce duplication of services but also help students seamlessly take courses at any of the campuses. It was to cut 200 jobs.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, however, told the state that they were not proposing a “substantial change” but an entirely new college.

Ojakian said he has since met with NEASC staff and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems which assisted in reviewing the original proposal.

The new plan would regionalize the community colleges and creating a new leadership structure by hiring three new regional presidents by the spring of 2019. Colleges would keep chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief academic officer positions.

Curriculum alignment would also continue. Resources would be shared across campuses to reduce redundancies, while the system invests more in positions to raise additional income and attract more students.


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