Will 12 Become One? Community College Consolidation Proposed

The stated objective is “one centrally managed college with campuses statewide.”  In the Land of Steady Habits, that recommendation is akin to being struck by lightning. Connecticut currently operates 12 community colleges across the state, and has for decades.  As a means of cutting 20 percent of the collective community colleges budget, a reduction of approximately $28 million, the leadership of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) is calling for implementation of the comprehensive consolidation proposal to begin immediately.  It would require “1-2 years for implementation and realization of targeted savings,” according to the outline developed by CSCU officials.

Some would suggest that implementation got underway in advance of the formal proposal.

Earlier this year, the CSCU Board of Regents, which oversees the colleges and four state universities, announced Housatonic Community College President Paul Broadie II and Asnuntuck Community College President James P. Lombella would be the interim presidents of Gateway Community College and Tunxis Community College, respectively, in addition to their existing duties and for no increase in pay, when the institutions’ current presidents depart later this year.

The plan also calls for the CSCU system to “leverage core competencies of Charter Oak State College to serve all colleges and universities.”  Charter Oak State College is Connecticut's public online college offering master's, bachelor's and associate degree programs for adults.

Other options to reduce costs by making major administrative changes to the state’s college and university system (not including UConn) were considered, and rejected.  “We examined the closing of community college campuses and the operational consolidation of our universities. We looked at regional consolidation of the universities and colleges and elimination of system office. Those options did not meet our guiding principles, were not feasible for long-term growth, or were potentially more costly,” CSCU president Mark Ojakian said in an open letter on the CSCU website.

Officials noted that state funding has declined by 12.4 percent in recent years, after a consolidation of the state university and state college systems in 2011.  The proposal, to be considered by the Board of Regents this week, also calls for integrating operations such as IT, Human Resources, Purchasing and Contracts, Facilities and other “back office” functions, according to CSCU.

The “significant reduction” and “phased in approach” for the “consolidation” of leadership and management at the colleges are described as the “first step towards a sustainable path forward.”

The community colleges are Asnuntuck Community College, Norwalk Community College, Capital Community College, Quinebaug Valley Community College, Gateway Community College, Three Rivers Community College, Housatonic Community College, Tunxis Community College, Manchester Community College, Middlesex Community College, Naugatuck Valley Community College, and Northwestern CT Community College.

They date back to the 1960's and 1970's  in most cases, with the bulk of changes coming in the 1990's.  Housatonic Community College started in 1966 as a branch of Norwalk Community College. In 1967, HCC became an independent institution. Quinebaug became Connecticut’s 11th community college in 1971 with a service area to include towns in Windham County. Asnuntuck Community College was established in 1969 by an act of the Connecticut state legislature as the twelfth institution in the Connecticut state community college system. Classes began in 1972.

Gateway Community College was formed on July 1, 1992 from the consolidation of two other secondary institutions. The former South Central Community College (at Long Wharf) combined resources with the former Greater New Haven State Technical College in North Haven.  Capital Community College is the result of the 1992 merger of Greater Hartford Community College (founded in 1967) and Hartford State Technical College (founded in 1946).Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, was formed in 1992 by the merger of Mohegan Community College and Thames Valley State Technical College. Norwalk Community College and Norwalk State Technical College were each founded in 1961.

In 1992, the state considered a proposal that would have merged the then-17 community and technical colleges into five regional institutions.  That plan would have eliminated 11 president positions, according to published reports at the time.