We ask that you contact your representatives and Gov. Ned Lamont to let them know that you do not want your local community college turned into a faceless, profit-oriented, McCollege.
Tell them the “Connecticut State Community College” is an expensive mistake, and hiring more and more administrators is a waste of your tax money. Together you and the state of Connecticut benefit from strong, independent colleges that are tailor-made to serve your community. Find your legislator and contact information here. Email Governor Lamont here.
Picture this: Classes start tomorrow. You have signed up for online classes, as you are unsure what it will be like in a COVID classroom, and besides, you have to work to help your family. But when you try to log into your account, you realize you have forgotten your password. Without your password, you cannot register or pay for classes, view emails, access library resources, or get into your classes. Instead of being able to contact a local IT office, you are referred to an outsourced call center where you wait on hold for 15 to 45 minutes. Have a problem remembering your user ID? Call the call center. Have a problem with vaccination status? Call a call center. Have a problem with your student loan? You get the picture. No more friendly, on-campus workers to help you with your issues, only distant strangers reading from scripts.
Our community colleges have always been public services tailored to the needs of their individual communities, but our ability to provide uniquely for students is threatened in Connecticut. The 12 community colleges each have their own specialties and strengths, but the Board of Regents for Higher Education in Connecticut (BOR) want to turn them all into McDonald’s-like franchises, making things easier for administrators, but worse for our communities and our students.
The BOR wants to eliminate our 12, individual and distinct community colleges and replace them with one “Connecticut State Community College” with 12 campuses that have identical courses. Maybe this sounds like a good thing. Students can go to any college and get the exact same education, right? But while we may offer similar programs, there are significant differences. For example, at Norwalk Community College the emphasis of the paralegal program is on teaching students to work in legal offices, while at Manchester CC, near Hartford, the emphasis is on teaching students to work in the insurance industry. In physics, Three Rivers CC, which has the Dominion Millstone nuclear power plant nearby, includes a component on nuclear energy. No other college teaches that right now What will happen when Governor Lamont makes all 12 of Connecticut’s community colleges identical? Will Three Rivers have to give up its nuclear physics courses? Will students in Manchester no longer get the emphasis on insurance law they need? Is this best for students? Or for the administrators?
The BOR claims this reorganization will save money, but, according to Jon Lender in a March 13 story in the Hartford Courant, “The cumulative increase in the cost of the system office since 2017 is $69 million” with new vice presidents being paid $130,928 (“Big paychecks for new community college administrative staff fuel discord as regents prepare to hire new president.”)
The reorganization has added layers of bureaucracy that make it harder for students to access services. Before, students and employees were dealing with a real person at their school: now they deal with a faceless institution. As the administrative costs balloon, the amount of money spent on actual educational needs for students continues to be reduced. This is education on the cheap, and it affects Connecticut students who need and deserve a strong public higher education system.
Why is this happening? Mostly because of the idea that public higher education can be managed like a for-profit business. But higher education is not meant to be immediately profitable, like McDonald’s. And the profits come in the form of “…more informed citizens, better health, better parents, more job satisfaction, and other noneconomic benefits” (Baum et. al., 2013). These benefits only happen when students can get the information and help they need.
Spending more money on administrators is not the best plan for Connecticut. Spending more money on student-related services, like local educational counseling, local IT staff, local library staff, and faculty is. Please contact your legislators and the governor to voice your concerns about the deliberate damage being done to the public higher education system in Connecticut.
William Key is a doctoral candidate Southern Connecticut State University and Professor at Norwalk Community College. Lois Aime is Director of Educational Technology and a member of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Board of Regents. Laurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College.