Pink slips given to top higher education officials

Backers of the higher education merger promised it would save the state millions, and last week numerous highly paid top officials at the Connecticut State University and the community college systems received pink slips to ensure it would.

“We’re talking about saving almost $5 million a year,” said Michael Meotti, executive vice president of the new Board of Regents for Higher Education that is responsible for the 100,000-student merged system. “We are not keeping any associate chancellors.”

In total, 24 positions, with an average salary of $141,000 each, are being eliminated. But most of those laid off will remain on the job for the next 12 months because system policy requires that long a notice. Three of the eliminated positions were already vacant and will not be filled.

Meotti said the savings will be used to hire more faculty for the next school year. He said that since many of these central office staff are paid “substantially more” than faculty typically receive, many more teachers will be hired than the number of administrators laid off.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that the average salary of a full professor at Connecticut State University is $95,000 and associate professor is $73,000.

“Campuses would be able to hire in some cases two to three professors of various ranks” for each eliminated administrator, writes Colleen Flanagan, a spokeswoman for the Regents.

“We all know that we are not going to need two chancellors or two, you name the position, when this merger happens,” Louise Feroe, who was acting chancellor of the state college system before the merger, said after the new regents’ first meeting last year.

Feroe managed to keep her job. The titles of those receiving notices were made available to the Mirror, but their names were not, out of respect for their “privacy.” Here is a list of the positions eliminated and here are the titles of central office employees at the community colleges and colleges.

In discussing the savings that will occur as a result of the layoffs, Meotti said, “Students have significant challenges to find the courses they need to graduate on time,” in part because of insufficient numbers of professors.

A recent report by the Regents says that while 74 percent of the state’s high school graduates go to college, only 41 percent complete post-secondary programs.

Meotti also said that the state’s colleges are relying too heavily on less experienced, but cheaper, adjunct faculty to teach. The U.S. Department of Education reports that non-faculty pay at CSUS is $60,000 a year, $35,000 a year less than the salary of a professor. The share of full-time faculty at CSUS, the community colleges and the state’s online college has dropped nearly 10 percent over the past eight years, reports the Board of Regents.

Meotti said he hopes this $5 million will make a dent in reversing that trend.

While 24 of the 200 central office positions have been shed, four new positions were created along with the Board of Regents. Those slots include President Robert Kennedy’s $340,000-a-year job; director of human resources Steven Weinberger’s $175,000-a-year job, and the $130,000 position of spokeswoman, held by Flanagan. The position of chief financial officer remains open.