College Closures Considered as State Budget Troubles Worsen - NBC Connecticut

College Closures Considered as State Budget Troubles Worsen



    College Closures Considered as State Budget Troubles Worsen
    Mark Ojakian smiles as he is announced as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's new chief of staff during a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Harford, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.

    The president of the system that oversees 17 state colleges and universities told staff and students that if current budget proposals were to be adopted, then he would have no choice but to consider the closure of multiple institutions.

    “You have to look at all of the options should that become reality and the reality of a cut that size is that we would have to close colleges,” Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) System President Mark Ojakian said. “We would have to close campuses. Not just one, but more than one and I want to be clear not only with the folks that I serve in the community but also those in the legislature.”

    The overall cut proposed totals $80 million. Ojakian said filling that hole by raising tuition alone would cost those paying for attendance more than 25 percent more each year. Ojakian said he’s ruled out using a tuition increase to fill the gap.

    “I will not bring forward to my board, another tuition increase. We have to figure it out ourselves and we have to work with the legislature to figure it out,” Ojakian said.

    Some faculty in the system are not happy with Ojakian and that angst existed even before the prospect of a campus closure.

    Ojakian’s proposal to consolidate some back office and IT functions, and the concept of combining programs was met with anger, especially by the faculty of Central Connecticut State University, who’s Faculty Senate went so far as to approve a vote of, “no confidence,” in Ojakian.

    Elena Tapia is a professor of linguistics at Eastern Connecticut State University, and serves as the president of the Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors unit that represents more than 3,000 faculty.

    Tapia said any proposed cuts to higher education need to be shelved.

    “Given the budget deficit, I think there are going to have to be some cuts, but I don’t think they should be to higher education,” said Tapia, a 23-year faculty member at Eastern. “If you want a workforce then they need to not cannibalize higher education but to nourish it, to put money back into higher education.”

    Ojakian said closing a campus wasn’t a real consideration when he was looking at chances for savings, and said he now needs to explain those reasons to lawmakers.

    “Many of our students have childcare and employment issues, so where they go to school now, it’s challenging enough for them to get there, so to make them travel another thirty or forty-five miles is not going to be in their best interest which is why I did not initially propose closing a campus,” Ojakian said.

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