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State colleges could merge administrations

April 3, 2017 GMT

Facing budget cuts and rising tuition, the system that controls 17 state colleges and universities may be poised to merge administrations.

“Since becoming president, it has become clear to me and our Board of Regents that the current structure of our system is not viable in the long term,” Mark Ojakian, system president said in a memorandum to the campuses on Monday.

The Board of Regents was formed in 2011, providing oversight to the state’s four regional universities — Western, Southern, Eastern and Central, 12 community colleges — including Housatonic, Norwalk, Gateway and Naugautuck, and Charter Oak online degree program.

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The only public college outside the regent system is the University of Connecticut.

Ojakian said the state has never realized the power that comes with joining forces.

State funding continues to decline and the system expects a cut of at least $35 million in the next fiscal year ouf of a $1.3 million budget.

“Cutting costs has helped the system to address immediate budget shortfalls but these strategies will not lead to long-term sustainability,” Ojakian said.

Some cuts have reduced student services even as tuition has increased. Tuition is set to go up another 2.5 to 4 percent in the fall. The Board of Regents will meet to approve those increases when it meets Thursday at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Ojakian said he is recommending two strategies for immediate implementation. First, he wants an administrative consolidation across all institutions and system office of administrative personnel who do not directly interact with students. That would include such positions at human resources, information technology, purchasing and other “back office” functions. This could save abou t$13 million. It is unclear how many staff would be cut in the process.

Secondly, Ojakian wants an operational consolidation of the state’s 12 community colleges into one that is centrally managed and maintains the unique mission, geographic locations and local community connections. The consolidation would be phased in and save about $28 million.

“This strategy calls for the significant reduction of campus leadership and management in addition to the administrative consolidation called for in the first recommendation,” Ojakian said.

Already the system is being piloted with the presidents of two of the community colleges _ including Paul Broadie II at Housatonic Community College, agreeing to do double duty by also assuming management of Gateway Community College, which had been looking for a president.

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Faculty and staff who deal directly with students — such as advisors —would be held harmless in the process. He is also not proposing the colleges be consolidated.

The plan won’t take care of the immediate need to decrease spending by at least $35 million, Ojakian added. It also counts on state employees agreeing to concessions. If they don’t the cuts will go deeper.

Here is a link to the proposal: http://www.ct.edu/newsroom/a_message_from_president_ojakian_regarding_cscu_administrative_consolidatio