An open letter to Mark Ojakian, President of the Connecticut State College and Universities.

Dear Mr. Ojakian:

I am sure that you are familiar with the concept that educational institutions are not actually cost centers, although there are obvious costs. Prior to the election of Ronald Reagan as governor of California in the 1960’s, the expenses involved with education were considered an investment in the future of the students, their families and the general welfare of the state.

Reagan transformed education from a public to a private good and increased costs to students accordingly. It is unreasonable to expect any college to cover its own costs in present time from tuition or from private funds. That is what Nelson Rockefeller understood, as governor of New York, when his policies allowed me to attend an outstanding university for $50 per semester in tuition. The total tuition at that time was $400 per semester and I received a $350 scholarship. I graduated in 1966.

I was a privileged student whose parents expected me to attend college. I currently live in Mansfield, which borders Willimantic, one of the poorest towns in our state. The students in Willimantic have none of the privileges I had. The Willimantic Center of Quinebaug Valley Community College is one of their best options for escaping poverty. If the 365 students who currently attend that center do not have access in Willimantic, they will not attend college or benefit from the technical training that is offered there. They will be consigned to a life of minimum wage jobs and no way out.

As a taxpayer, professor emerita from CCSU and an engaged citizen, I encourage you to rethink the entire funding system of CSCU. This system will never be self-supporting. If it is diminished, the entire state will be pushed toward further financial chaos. The future of this state depends on an educated citizenry. The intelligence and skill of our citizens is our most important resource. That includes the people who live in Eastern Connecticut and who are typically forgotten in budget considerations.

As far as I am concerned, keeping the Willimantic Center of QVCC open and fully functional is a moral issue. This is one of the wealthiest states in the country. There is no reason to ignore the welfare of some of our poorest citizens or the poorest section of our state. You are a person who has achieved a great deal in your life. I am sure you would have been greatly hampered in your success if you had not had the opportunity to attend college. Willimantic students are in the same position and deserve the same opportunities.

Jane Fried, Ph.D. is a Professor Emerita of Central Connecticut State University.

Leave a comment