Legislators: UConn expansion should not need approval from other college system

Plans to dramatically expand enrollment at the University of Connecticut advanced Thursday when the state House of Representatives voted to no longer require the state’s other public college system to approve the expansion.

The measure now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his consideration.

“We’ll review the bill,” a spokesman said.

The governor’s proposal to increase enrollment at UConn by one-third has drawn concern from faculty at the state’s other college system struggling to recover from a “dire” budget deficit caused by enrollment declines. The Faculty Advisory Committee to the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities reports that its university presidents oppose UConn’s plan to expand its regional campuses.

But concerns have also arisen as to whether it is appropriate for the Board of Regents that governs the 100,000-student ConnSCU system to be regulating its “competition.”

“I am sure nobody wants to do anything that would lessen our effectiveness,” Lewis Robinson, the Regents chairman, said recently when asked about the UConn proposals.

The House chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee said the bill creates a necessary “firewall between those schools they might be competing with for students.

There is clearly a conflict of interest here,” said Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury.

While the UConn expansion — dubbed “Next Generation” by its proponents — may soon no longer need approval from the other public college system, the future of the proposal does await news on whether it will be funded in the state’s next two-year budget.

The legislature’s budget-writing committee recommended partially funding Malloy’s $2.1 billion proposal.