After a week of wrangling, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and Rep. Roberta Willis, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, have reached agreement over plans to consolidate the 12 community colleges and four state universities.
The agreement creates a board of regents to oversee the 12 community colleges, four state universities, and Charter Oak State College, but it also creates an advisory board and gives each entity the ability to appoint someone to that board. The later was a sticking point for Willis, who was afraid the community colleges would lose their identities if only one person from the board of regents was overseeing it.
The consolidation effort was one of the hallmarks of Malloy’s budget even though it only saves the state about $4.3 million a year by eliminating duplication amongst the governing boards.
“In the end, it’s the students who win – by flattening out administration costs and overhead, we can direct more money to our students and classroom instruction. In addition, this proposal will help make these schools more functional to those who attend them,” Mark Ojakian, deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said in a statement announcing the agreement.
About 94,000 students attend the schools impacted by the agreement, which still leaves the University of Connecticut largely untouched. The states flagship university will still be overseen by a 21-member Board of Trustees.
“My concerns from the beginning have been the need to maintain the distinctiveness and uniqueness of mission of the colleges, particularly the community colleges,” Willis said. “They serve a critical and defined need in our communities, one that must be maintained even as we seek efficiencies and savings. I have been assured that these concerns will be met through this plan.”
Under the compromise agreement struck late Tuesday evening Willis said a “leader” will be appointed by the regents for each of the schools. She said the leader won’t be someone that’s getting a salary or a paycheck from the school, but maybe a retired individual or an individual invested in the schools future. She said that will help maintain the schools identities and will also help with the strategic plan going forward.
The appointments to the board of regents will begin July 1, but the boards will remain in place until Jan. 1, 2012 to help with the transition.
The consolidation will result in the elimination of about 24 employees in the central office. The chancellor position at the state’s four colleges will also be eliminated.
“This is not a money thing,“ Willis said. She said some of the savings will come later on as the back office functions are consolidated too.