Three finalists selected to lead state’s largest college system

The Board of Regents is nearing the finish line to select a leader to run the state’s 93,000-student college system.

The system’s governing board has whittled a list of eight candidates down to three finalists, Interim President Philip Austin told the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee Tuesday.

“Quite honestly they are supurb They are far above what I had anticipated. I was concerned given the realities of the recent past,” Austin said. He was referring to the turmoil and abrupt resignations of top officials that hit the college system last fall.

A spokeswoman for the system said it “looks like names will be made public at some point soon.”

The regents plan to forward their recommended candidate to run the 17-college system to the governor in time so he or she can start this summer.

Speaking on WNPR’s “Where We Live,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said a new president will be selected “hopefully in a matter of weeks.”

College and state officials had expressed concerns that they may have a hard time attracting top-tier candidates to fill the position because of a state law that restricts the Board of Regents for Higher Education from entering into a contract that guarantees the future president will keep his or her job after the governor leaves office. That means that whomever is selected will have job security for only one full school year.

“What is a great concern to [the candidates] is this law,” Austin said. “We could lose on this… We are in shooting distance of getting a leader into here.”

The co-chairwomen of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee said legislators have agreed on a change in state law to allow the board to determine the length of a leader’s contract.

“We’ve all signed off on it… It should fly,” Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury, told Austin and the other college officials Tuesday.

“We are doing everthing we can to help you,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said.

The co-chairwomen asked Austin to share the message with whomever is chosen as the next president that a contract of more than one year will be available.