A demand for lots more detail on community college consolidation

CT Mirror file photo

Students on campus at Manchester Community College

Officials of the state’s 12 community colleges must answer a long list of questions from the schools’ accrediting body before their plan to shed hundreds of administrative positions can move forward.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges – whose accreditation certifies that a school meets certain educational standards and allows students to qualify for federal grants – wants more supporting data to show the savings goals in the plan can be achieved without harming education.

“We cannot tell in any useful detail what is being removed from each institution in the way of positions, services, contracts, or other expenses,” NEASC President Barbara Brittingham wrote the state system’s provost Jan. 28.

Brittingham was responding to a “draft” plan, submitted to NEASC Jan. 18, that aims to save $28 million at the state’s fiscally troubled community colleges.

“With a proposal to remove $28 million from the collective budgets, the commission will need to know, among other things, that students will be at least as well served as now and that there are appropriate resources available to support the programs and services being offered. Please include more evidence about the claims made,” Brittingham wrote in a seven-page letter obtained by CT Mirror.

The Board of Regents for Higher Education has denied The Mirror’s request for a copy of the plan submitted to NEASC, saying it was a draft submitted for feedback and not ready for public release.

Spokeswoman Maribel La Luz said the college system would release the final plan after submitting it to NEASC by the March 16 deadline. The accrediting board is expected to either reject or approve the plan one month later.

News that there is a lengthy draft for the so-called “Students First” initiative came as a surprise to faculty leaders, who have been yearning for more details.