This note is in response to a recent op-ed by a community college student published in CT Viewpoints. The Connecticut State College and University system fully agrees that community colleges can and must continue to be the most affordable, accessible option for students to receive a quality education in Connecticut. I applaud the author for being engaged in public discourse and making his voice heard on an important topic.
Unfortunately, it appears that the author has been given incorrect information by those opposed to the Students First initiative. The op-ed claims that “it will be harder for [students] to get help from the financial aid department since college consolidation will move everything into one place.” This could not be further from the truth; indeed, under Students First, student-facing services such as financial aid and information technology supports will remain on every campus.
The fact of the matter is that services to students are already at dangerously low levels. The student-to-advisor ratio at our community colleges is currently 923-1. The main objective of Students First – along with concurrent initiatives such as Guided Pathways – is to ensure our students receive the supports they need from the time they enter our colleges through the time they graduate and enter the workforce. We can’t do that without making changes in our operations.
Likewise, the claim that “[c]riminal justice majors like me will have a harder time getting classes for the course if college consolidation becomes a reality” is simply incorrect. Students First does not involve the discontinuation of any programs. At the same time, by moving to a core curriculum, we will be better able to meet the state’s workforce needs while maintaining the quality course offerings on which our students and employers depend. It will also provide greater flexibility for students to take courses on different campuses – something that 25 percent of community college students graduates currently do.
Students First does not compromise the individual integrity of our community colleges. Quite the contrary, by saving $23 million per year starting in 2023, it puts our colleges on more sustainable financial footing and ensures that our communities continue to have campuses and satellites, that campus and regional leaders are engaged with their foundations in raising critical funds for scholarships and innovative programs, and that we will continue and expand vital connections with business, educational institutions and civic organizations.
The reality is that this opinion piece does not exist in isolation. In recent weeks, special interest groups opposed to Students First have stooped to the abhorrent practice of fear mongering and misleading students. A recent flyer anonymously distributed at Norwalk Community College falsely claimed that Students First would cause students to lose their financial aid, force them to drive to faraway campuses to attend class, have a harder time transferring, and that their college would lose accreditation. All of this is patently false.
Vigorous debate and disagreement is a cornerstone of our democracy and a hallmark of a thriving college system. At the same time, deliberately frightening and misleading students is an unacceptable tactic.
Reputable news organizations like the CT Mirror do our students, our state, and themselves a tremendous disservice when they publish verifiably inaccurate information without any sort of fact checking.
Leigh Appleby is Director of Communications of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.
CTViewpoints welcomes rebuttal or opposing views to this and all its commentaries. Read our guidelines and submit your commentary here.