Higher education leaders anxious over lack of merger specifics

Two weeks after agreement was reached at the Capitol on merging much of the state's higher education system, officials of the affected institutions are anxiously awaiting word on just what the reorganization will entail.

"We don't know how this is all going to play out," Louise H. Feroe, the acting chancellor to Connecticut State University System, said Wednesday after what could be one of her last board meetings.

"We don't know a thing. Let me know if you hear of anything. You would be the first," echoed Mary Anne Cox, assistant chancellor for the state's dozen community colleges.


CSUS Acting Chancellor Louise Feroe, with board chairman Richard Balducci: 'We don't know how this is all going to play out'

What officials do know is the reorganization merges CSUS, the community colleges, the online Charter Oak State College and the Department of Higher Education under a single Board of Regents. Collectively, these schools have almost 100,000 students and 6,700 full-time employees.

The University of Connecticut is not affected.

Sen. Beth Bye, co-chairwoman of the legislature's Higher Education Committee, said the details of merger have not been worked out because the focus has been on getting $2 billion in concessions from labor and what the plan is if that doesn't happen.

"Should we spend hours and hours on this reorganization? We have to prioritize our time right now," said Bye, D-West Hartford.

Bye said she doesn't expect the final language of the reorganization bill to be available for at least a week. The regular legislative session ends June 8.

The Malloy administration proposed its higher education reorganization plan as a cost-savings measure months ago, saying it would cut central office staffing by 24 positions and save an estimated $4.3 million a year.

Leaders at CSUS, the community colleges and the SDHE said they have not yet been informed of who will be laid off. Although the administration sent layoff notices to 100 non-union employees last week, describing the cuts as being the result of agency consolidation, Malloy's office has not released details of the layoffs and it's not known if any involve the higher ed restructuring.

"We don't have any details of what's going on," said Constance Fraser, a spokeswoman for the DHE.

Feroe told the CSUS board it's not clear who will be responsible for deciding what positions to cut in the course of the merger.

Several members of the CSUS board expressed frustration at the lack of information.

"This is being done on a whim and without any public scrutiny," said John A. Doyle, who has been a trustee at CSUS for almost 20 years. "It's like they just said, 'Presto, chango, there's magically savings, but we won't show you where.' You expect us to believe there's $4.3 million in savings but no one can give us a list of where?"

"This system's a mess [with the reorganization]. Let's just hope the students win in the end," CSUS Trustee and Finance and Administration Committee chairman Angelo J. Messina told his fellow board members Wednesday before the meeting.

CSUS Chairman Richard Balducci told the board that even though his position may be eliminated in the next few weeks, legislators at the State Capitol "have a lot of time on their hands" to make sure the reorganization is done right.

But he and members of the board said they just hope those details are released soon.

"All we know is what we read in the newspaper," said Messina.