Once again, Mark E. Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, is shaking things up.
As he brings his outsider’s view to the state’s colleges and universities, he’s ruffled the feathers of many in the academic community as he advocates for change.
Now he’s taking aim at the state’s 12 community colleges, starting with a plan to merge them. If Ojakian’s proposal is adopted, the system would keep its 12 campuses and all satellites, but students would have to apply just once, fill out one financial aid form and take their grade-point average with them should they transfer to another campus.
From a taxpayer point of view, the plan promises to save the system $28 million by the time it begins in July 2019, in part by shrinking the number of top-level administrators. This comes on top of Ojakian’s proposal to share services and leverage purchasing contracts at the state’s four universities.
Frankly, as long as the quality of the educational experience remains high, we’d support most ideas that will lower costs, both for taxpayers but especially for students. Where once the state schools, and especially the community colleges, put a degree within reach of almost anyone willing to work for it, today’s tuition costs are creating a burden - student loan debt - for many well into their 30s and 40s. This burden has affected the housing market, the ability of grads to start a family and the chance for many to follow their dreams. That hurts our young people and it hurts the state.
It’s vital that Connecticut maintain an educated workforce and to do that, we must make college affordable again.