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Education News

As Connecticut's Community Colleges Head Toward A Single School, Students Have Questions

David DesRoches
Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, speaks with students from Three Rivers Community College in Norwich at forum for questions at Capital Community College in Hartford.

As the state prepares to consolidate its community colleges, the system’s president has been fielding some tough questions from faculty and students in public forums.

The plan is called Students First, but for Benjamin Crowley, a student at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, that's a bit of a misnomer.

"I don't see how cutting the budget to education makes students first,” Crowley told WNPR, after a conversation with system leaders at Capital Community College in Hartford.

Crowley said there are still too many unanswered questions.

"I just don't see how, long term, this is going to sustain the college long-term, with not a lot of students coming in and being retained,” he said.

The consolidation plan would, among other things, eliminate many top administrative positions at each college, and make it easier for students to transfer between schools. It's expected to save Connecticut taxpayers about $28 million as it's rolled out over the next few years. Most of those savings would come from cutting 36 top administrative positions -- three at each college.

Mark Ojakian is president of the state's 17-college system. He said the new plan won’t affect any programming. He's pointed out that shrinking enrollment is a reality that can't be avoided, and state funding has fallen by more than 12 percent over the last several years.

"Now, I'm not saying this isn't going to be without little bumps here and there, but the goal is to make this seamless to you, the student,” Ojakian told the crowd of about 50.

After formally taking questions while standing at a podium, Ojakian joined a group of students from Three Rivers to take questions. Raven Dillon, president of the student government, asked him if there were any problems with the plan that might pop up down the road.

"Right now, I just see that the transition for those maybe senior level people who will be impacted, will be difficult. I don't see this as having a downside at all for students,” Ojakian said.

The new college hasn't been named yet. It's expected to open in July of 2019. The consolidated system would be the fifth largest of its kind in the country.

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