MIDDLETOWN—Private colleges and universities in Connecticut are over regulated and undervalued, despite being amongst the “smartest” investments a government can make.
And it’s hampering job growth.
That’s according to members of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges who spent a little under an hour with Malloy Monday at Wesleyan University.
The roundtable discussion with college administrators was part of Malloy’s summer jobs tour to gather ideas for how to create jobs in the state.
“The most important issue facing the nation economically, culturally, politically is job creation. It’s not taxes, it’s job creation. And the Governor seems to have understood that very well,” said Michael Roth, Wesleyan’s president.
John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, said that his school has been waiting for approval of an assistant anesthesiology program from the Department of Higher Education for over a year.
The state of Connecticut, he explained, has a more rigid accreditation process than even the relevant national accreditation body, a process that has held up the program for a year and a half. Thirty five states have no such accreditation process. Four of the state’s private colleges are older than the Department of Higher Education, and thus don’t have to get its approval for new programs.
“Connecticut doesn’t want them to practice in this state. Why? I don’t know,” Lahey said.
“I agree with you. … This is not a door you have to push me through,” Malloy responded. “I’m not a ‘no-review’ guy, but I would clearly put myself in the field of people who believe there should be timely [approval].”
Roth, Wesleyan’s president, addressed the question of how to retain graduates in Connecticut.
“What are the mechanisms that give students anchors in the community… that allow them, over a lifetime career, to contribute to this state?”
“Anything the government can do, either through the bully pulpit that you have, or through direct financial support for internships to give students the anchor points in the community while they’re undergraduates,” Roth said.
With regard to internships, Malloy said that some places in the state are better at it than others.
“The Greater Hartford area through Storrs seems to do a lot better job at making those connections, in part because there are a lot of large employers who are looking for those positions. … Down in Fairfield county where I’m from, … business has not been as open,” Malloy said.
Martha Shouldis, president of St. Vincent’s College in Bridgeport, said that her students don’t need much convincing to stay in state.
“Our student body is a little different than most of those of my colleagues. Our students are local, adult students,… working part to full time, raising families. They are locally based in Fairfield and New Haven counties. They want to stay… They’re generally poorer so the CICS monies become really important to these students. And I’m going to ask that you make every consideration to keep those monies in play,” she said.
CICS is the Connecticut Independent College Student grant, which helps Connecticut residents go to in state private colleges. The program was dealt a serious blow during budget negotiations, loosing nearly a third of its funding over the next two years.
“We wouldn’t have that discussion but not for a 3.5 billion dollar deficit. I’m hopeful that times are going to get better not worse,” Malloy said.
Aside from his optimism the economy will recover before his next budget proposal Malloy has promised to focus on education reform during the 2012 legislative session.