Community colleges get approval from accreditors for consolidation
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) announced that it has received approval from the New England Commission on Higher Education to consolidate the state’s 12 community colleges into a single entity called Connecticut Statue Community College.
School consolidation will require a change in state law before it can go into effect. The state’s higher education committee held a public hearing on Tuesday to weigh the pros and cons of the proposal, which aims to achieve consolidation by July 2023.
In a joint statement, CSCU President Terrence Cheng and Interim Connecticut State President Michael Rooke called for the consolidation to be completed.
“All of us within this system take great pride in our 12 unique colleges in every corner of the state, each of which is a cultural, educational and economic hub,” Cheng and Rooke said in a joint statement. “But the merger responds to the harsh realities facing community colleges — steadily declining enrollment, lagging student success metrics, and an unsustainable financial trajectory. The plan takes concrete steps to address these fundamental challenges, while preserving the uniqueness of each of our current campuses and ensuring that we have the resources to continue our operations with sustainability and quality.
However, Sam Freeman, president of the Connecticut Community Colleges Congress, the union for staff and faculty members, warned that the consolidation plan was a bad idea.
“I still think this is going to hurt our state’s community college students and that the state of Connecticut is not the answer to the real problems facing our system,” Freeman said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.
Enrollment at community colleges across the state has been declining for more than a decade and the situation has been made worse by the pandemic — there were 37,116 students for the fall 2021 semester compared to 58,253 a year earlier. Freeman argued that creating a single entity would only create a “really bloated statewide management system” that would be disconnected from the individual needs of each school.
“Colleges are losing our autonomy, our individuality, and what we’ve seen is that this big kind of monolith, kind of a single system is being designed,” he said.
Photo: Norwalk Community College