May 9, 2018

Senators Bye, Flexer, and Representatives Boyd, Haddad Work to Protect Community Colleges

Amendment will create a process to oversee proposed campus closings

Senators Mae Flexer (D-Killingly) and Beth Bye (D-West Heartford), and Representatives Pat Boyd (D-Pomfret) and Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfield) introduced a strike-amendment today to mitigate campus closings that have been threatened by the Board of Regents for Higher Education since the recent rejection of the community college merger plan by a regional oversight commission.

“The legislature has one day left to reassert its authority that it gave up nearly 30 years ago and ensure that the voices of the people are heard in this process. It is our job as legislators to be the voice of the people, and if we adjourn without acting we have done the people of Connecticut a major disservice,” Senator Flexer said. “This amendment would ensure that the Board of Regents would have to go through a deliberative process before closing a community college campus. They would have to consider access to institutions, the negative affect on students and the community, and the specific industries and employment needs that the campus meets for our state. Our proposal would also require that the Board of Regents engage all stakeholders in the conversation and have public hearings, including one at the institution ultimately proposed to be closed.

“These are critical institutions in our communities and we need a thoughtful process in place if they are going to be closed,” Sen. Bye, Senate Chair of the Higher Education Committee said.

“We need to put a process in place to ensure that plans to close any campuses follows a comprehensive process before any decision is made,” Rep. Boyd said. “Campuses such as Quinebaug Valley Community College, which has been an indispensable part of the community it serves, cannot be closed on a whim—we need careful oversight and consideration when making such drastic decisions. I am pleased to join my colleagues in petitioning our legislative leaders to protect these institutions.”

“Our first priority is to work to ensure that no college closure is necessary. However, under current law, there is no formal legislative role if the Board of Regents intends to close a college,” said Rep. Haddad. “This solution would allow for legislative oversight and require an open, transparent and fair process. Sen. Flexer and Rep. Boyd have been actively working with me and Sen. Bye to protect our colleges and QVCC in particular.”

The community college consolidation plan—put together by Mark Ojakian, President of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities—would merge all 12 state community colleges into one accredited body, decrease over 200 positions and cut over $23 million by 2022.

It was rejected in April by the New England Association of Schools and College’s Higher Education Commission. After that decision, officials said that colleges will have to review tuition rates, and look into closing one or two campuses.

The 2018 Legislative Session adjourns today, Wednesday, May 9th at midnight.