Connecticut college system moves ahead with controversial consolidation plan
- The president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) is pushing ahead with a plan to consolidate the state's 12 community colleges, even though an accrediting body previously rejected it and the plan has drawn fire from some on the campuses, according to The Connecticut Mirror.
- Critics, including students, faculty and former college leaders who are presenting a petition to the governor, say President Mark Ojakian's plan is inefficient and threatens local ties the campuses have built. They also say it could threaten accreditation from a panel that initially dismissed the proposal, saying it was not adequately planned.
- Ojakian believes the plan is more likely receive approval if it is already in action, so he has begun hiring executives to oversee the new structure, which he hopes to be in place by 2023. CSCU projects the move to a single institution could save $23 million.
Community colleges and four-year university systems in several states have consolidated or merged in some way in recent years.
Georgia State University's merger with the Perimeter College helped raise the graduation rate of first-time, full-time students in the college's two-year programs from 6% to 12%, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline publication.
The move was part of broader consolidation across the University of Georgia System since 2011. It saved $6 million, which the college was able to use some of to boost its student services offerings, Stateline reported.
Yet merging two- and four-year institutions isn't easy, Stateline noted, because their programming, selectivity and objectives tend to differ.
Still, states are examining ways to offer postsecondary education more efficiently. In some cases, that includes consolidation among two-year and with four-year institutions, while others closures are on the table.
A 2017 report from Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission said that although the state's community college system is accessible to most potential students, it should consider consolidation where several campuses serve areas of low population density.
In Louisiana, a system that once included 49 community colleges now has just 12 institutions with several campuses.
The University of Arkansas System successfully added six formerly independent community colleges, according to Stateline.
Last month, meanwhile, the Arkansas State University System voted to let the College of the Ouachitas merge into the system. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the consolidation is intended to help the system reduce redundancy in programs while helping to lower the cost of providing education throughout the state.
The University of Wisconsin System is underway with merging its 13 two-year colleges with four-year institutions. One reason for the consolidation, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, is to improve transfer pathways from two- to four-year colleges.
Mergers among four-year institutions have also been proposed. A recent report from Rand Corp. commissioned by the Pennsylvania State Legislature offers several suggestions for how the state could streamline its public four-year college offerings, from a different governance structure to mergers that would significantly decrease the number of campuses, according to WESA in Pittsburgh.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, the university system with which the College of the Ouachitas merged was misidentified. It merged with the Arkansas State University System.