HARTFORD — Details of a bold and controversial plan to merge all 12 of the state’s public community colleges into one was released on line Thursday.
The 82-page draft plan, along with several hundred pages of back up, detail where cuts would be made and which positions would be loss in an effort to eventually save $28 million while at the same time improving a community college graduation rate that is presently less than 15 percent.
“A structural change of this magnitude is necessary to address urgent problems facing the (community colleges),” says the executive summary of a document headed to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the body that will ultimately decide whether or not to accredit the proposed Community College of Connecticut.
Without accreditation, the plan will not go forward.
The report is due to the accrediting body on March 14 in hopes it will be approved this summer and implemented by the Fall of 2019. It will go next week to an academic committee of the Board of Regents for Higher Education which oversees not only community colleges but the state’s four regional universities.
Called Students First, the plan was proposed last year by Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. It would create one community college, keeping all 12 campuses — including in Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and Naugatuck — but the campuses would be organized into regions. The new single college would have one president with vice presidents for each region and each campus.
Until now, the plan has been short on details, drawing heavy criticism from faculty and students who question the projected savings as well as the need to consolidate decades-old colleges to create economies of scale.
In its rationale for change, the newly released report describes there being a competitive relationship between the existing 12 colleges.
“The competition for resources, for students and for programs inevitably hampers the colleges’ ability to collaborate and evolve collectively,” the report states.
The plan also argues that with a single college, financial aid could be redistributed to where it is needed most.
Under the one college model, here is where the plan proposes the cuts would come:
The system would cut 29 of 114 Information Technology jobs, saving $4.2 million.
Institutional Research staff — the personnel who keep data — would shrink from 23 to 11 employees at a savings of $1.2 million.
Administrative Services and finance departments across the 12 campuses would undergo extensive reorganization with the consolidation, losing 70 of 149 staff members and saving $7.8 million.
The facilities and maintenance staff would be cut by 13 positions to 169 employees and save $1.5 million.
Human Resources would be cut by nine staff members to 49, saving $3.1 million.
Marketing staff would be cut by 11 positions to 25, saving $1.8 million.
Continuing education management would change, shrinking the staff from 76 to 70, saving about $1 million.
Along with the elimination of some positions, others would be formed. For instance, academic leadership staffing would be scaled back from 155 to 121 positions. Department chair time would be eliminated and reverted back to classroom teaching. Academic discipline coordinators would be hired among faculty to supervise part-time faculty.
The system wants to notify students in Fall 2018 that if they plan to graduate by June 2020 to follow the curriculum in their current college. Through the graduating class of 2019, students would get their degrees from the individual 12 colleges. From the Class of 2020 on, however, degrees would be conferred by the new Community College of Connecticut.
In January, state officials submitted an early draft to NEASC officials but refused to release the document to the public. That version drew seven pages worth of comments and suggestions from NEASC intended to guide the final version.
In her critique, Barbara Brittingham, president of NEASC’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education said more evidence was needed to show that students will be at least as well served under the new system as they are now and that the plan leaves enough resources to support programs and services.
“The proposal needs to strike the right balance between describing what is and discussing what will be,” Brittingham wrote in a January 28, 2018 memorandum.
At first brush, late Thursday, faculty at several colleges said they had already found errors in the report.