Mae Flexer

State Senator

Mae Flexer

Deputy President Pro Tempore & Federal Relations Liaison

An Advocate for Us

February 22, 2019

Flexer Bill to Protect Community Colleges Receives Local Support At Public Hearing

community college
(left to right: State Rep. Pat Boyd, QVCC student RoxAnn Huckaby, QVCC student Jacqueline DuFour, and State Sen. Mae Flexer)

On Thursday, the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee held a public hearing and heard testimony on eight bills. Included on the docket was Senate Bill 749, “An Act Requiring Legislative Approval for the Merger or Closing of Institutions within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities,” which was introduced by Senator Mae Flexer (D-Killingly).

The bill would change state law to require the General Assembly to approve any action the Board of Regents for Higher Education might take regarding merges or closures of any community colleges.

If passed into law this would prevent Quinebaug Valley Community College and other Connecticut institutions within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities from merging or closing without legislative approval.

“It was inspiring to hear the testimony from community leaders and students as they highlighted the critical role our community colleges play in their own lives and in their towns,” said Senator Flexer (D-Killingly). “Our community college system is able to meet the specific needs of students and employers in various regions throughout the state and we need to ensure that this relationship is maintained. The legislation we have proposed would stop any short-sighted attempt to close or consolidate our community colleges and protect these critical local institutions. I was especially touched by the written testimony of QVCC founding President Bob Miller that was presented by Linda Colangelo, a QVCC alum. His vision brought QVCC to our corner, his leadership created the college we love and I hope his words today will inspire the legislature to maintain the independent gems that our community colleges are.”

Currently, The Connecticut Board of Regents has the authority to merge or close institutions within the Connecticut State University System and the regional community-technical college system. Board of Regents President Mark Ojakian put forth a plan in April 2018 that would have merged all 12 state community colleges into one accredited body. The plan, called “Students First,” was later rejected by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. A revised proposal followed in June that would have consolidated the 12 state community colleges in five years instead of two.

“Each campus has a unique personality and diverse culture,” said Jacqueline DuFour, a student at Quinebaug Valley Community College. “Our school provides students with a strong, nurturing environment, which helps give many of us the confidence to move on to four-year schools. For others it is their final destination, which helps to feed our local businesses. Many of our programs are tailor made to meet the needs of our local industry. If we were to make any changes regarding the consolidation bill, we would be removing the ‘community’ out of community colleges.”

“We need the legislature to be our representation when it comes to making decisions about our schools,” said RoxAnn Huckaby, President of Quinebaug Valley Community College’s Student Government Association. “The Board of Regents are making decisions with no concept of checks and balances and accountability and no input from Northeast Connecticut. We need the legislature to be our voice.”

The bill now awaits further action by the Higher Education and Employment Committee.