Wasting time and money, Mark Ojakian has churned the higher education community up-side down with his so-called “Students First” plan that the accrediting agency described in the press as “too half-baked to approve.” What a disgrace for Connecticut.
Ojakian responded with a threat to close community colleges. Instead he should resign and the Board of Regents over which he presides should be disbanded.
After five presidents, and multiple failed proposals with misleading names such as Transform 2020, Go Back to Get Ahead, and Ojakian’s Students First, the Board of Regents has wasted a quarter billion taxpayer dollars and created a bloated central bureaucracy that costs $35 million a year, more than the purported savings of $28 million from his ill-conceived plan.
This seven-year charade started in 2011, when the legislature abdicated its oversight role, created the Board of Regents for Higher Education and empowered it with the authority to close or merge colleges without legislative involvement.
After one Board of Regents plan failed, the legislature tried to restore its oversight, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2015.
Time for the legislature to reassert its historical control of higher education and support the efforts of the community colleges that, in collaboration, have already implemented cost savings through economies of scale, and other measures such as seamless transfers.
A resolution now from the General Assembly Higher Education Committee is essential to prevent Ojakian from taking any action while it is out of session.
Above all, it’s time to actually put students first.
Charlene LaVoie is a community lawyer in Winsted.