Are you curious to learn if merging the state’s community colleges, the four Connecticut State Universities and online state college into one system resulted in the promised $4.5 million in savings?

So are state legislators.

Last week, members of the legislature’s Appropriations and Higher Education committees received a breakdown of where the highly-touted savings was found — through the elimination of 38 administrative positions.

While happy that the system has trimmed down its high administrative costs, legislators still are unhappy about why that didn’t result in the promised 47 new faculty hires.

“We were promised those positions,” Rep. Roberta Willis, the co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, told officials from the Board of Regents last week.

The regents had been moving forward with hiring new faculty, “But on the way to the parade, our budget was cut” by the governor, Interim President Philip Austin responded.

Shortly after the governor cut state funding for the college system by $14.4 million midyear, college officials implemented a hiring freeze “of any and all full-time positions, effective immediately.”

If a president wants to fill vacant faculty or other positions, that college’s president needs to get approval from the system office. The budget director of the system reports there are 400 vacant positions system-wide, many of which are faculty slots.

“We are holding full-time positions vacant,” Bill Bowes, the chief financial officer of the nearly 100,000-student system, told the regents’ Finance Committee last week. “This is having a fairly significant impact on our campuses. We are very concerned with higher class sizes…”

Legislators last week also were given the price tag for creating 100 new faculty positions — $9.6 million a year, which includes the cost of providing health and retirement benefits.

Some officials have also raised questions over how much work the system is outsourcing to consultants. Since the Board of Regents was created two years ago, the system has entered into several contracts that will have the system spending millions of dollars over the next couple of years.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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