Faculty, Students Push Back Against Community College Consolidation | Connecticut Public Radio

Faculty, Students Push Back Against Community College Consolidation

Mar 11, 2019

Over 1,300 students, faculty members, and others have signed a petition asking for the state to stop its plan to consolidate the 12 public community colleges into one system. 

They’re calling themselves the Reluctant Warriors. 

"We are here today because it's time to stop pursuing higher education reform through secretive, backroom political deals, that consolidates power in the hands of a few and grows an already bloated system office," said Elle Van Dermark, a professor at Asnuntuck Community College. She joined about two-dozen others in Hartford to discuss their concerns with a plan to consolidate the community colleges under a single administrative structure.

"We are here to respectfully ask Governor Lamont to stand up and step in," Van Dermark said, adding that that faculty concerns about the project have fallen on deaf ears.

Several students also spoke out against the plan, which has been called Students First.

"The consolidation does not put us first," said Romy Stewart, a student at Norwalk Community College.

"A plan that threatens the individuality of programs like criminal justice and vet tech does not put us first," Stewart said.

One aspect of the plan would streamline curriculum so students would have the same offerings at each school.

Romy Stewart, a student at Norwalk Community College.
Credit David DesRoches / WNPR

But supporters of Students First have pointed out that there's a lot of misinformation circulating about what would actually happen. And something has to change, they've said, because the state is in a budget crisis, and the costs of running a college continue to rise.

Leigh Appleby is a spokesman for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

"We get it, change can be difficult, but at this point in time, it's absolutely necessary that we move to a model that shares services across campuses," Appleby said.

The plan is expected to eventually save about $17 million a year, and 117 positions would be cut, mostly from administration. 

Appleby said his office is committed to listening to faculty and using their input as the plan moves ahead.