The legislature is considering two bills today.

SB 749 requires legislative approval to merge OR close any of the Connecticut State Colleges or Universities. This should be adopted.

HB 7120 (The “Ojakian” bill) requires legislative approval only to close any colleges or universities.  It allows the Board of Regents to merge colleges or universities without legislative approval. This should be defeated.

The “Ojakian” bill is cleverly crafted to let the Board of Regents merge the community colleges or state universities and then close campuses within that merged system WITHOUT legislative approval.

Since 2011, when the legislature gave up its historic control over public higher education, there has been one failed plan after another from the Board of Regents at a cost of a quarter billion taxpayer dollars.

After five presidents and ill-conceived proposals with misleading names such as Transform 2020 and Go Back to Get Ahead, the Board of Regents has wasted money and created a bloated central bureaucracy that costs $35 million a year. The recent “Students First” plan is the most dangerous. Certainly, the most embarrassing. The accrediting agency described it as “half-baked.”

In the 1960’s, the Connecticut community college system was created by the legislature and subject to legislative control. In 2011, a new law created a Board of Regents for Higher Education and empowered it with the power to close or merge colleges without legislative approval.

In 2015, in response to the BOR plan to close community colleges, the legislature passed a law to restore legislative control. Gov. Dannel Malloy vetoed it but the legislature did not override the veto. The 2015 plan failed for other reasons, but the debacle revealed the flaw in letting the BOR have such broad control.

Restoring legislative control is imperative and it is the original intent of the legislature. Such far-reaching decisions must not be the purview of an insulated and unaccountable bureaucracy.

The legislature must take back its historical and crucial control public higher education before the BOR goes too far and destroys public higher education.

As most sociological and business studies show, bureaucracy perpetuates itself.  It’s time for an examination, analysis and review to determine the impact of BOR control on public higher education.

Anyone can submit testimony on these bills: email your support or opposition comments to HEDtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

Charlene LaVoie is Director of the Office of the Community Lawyer in Winsted.

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