Emails to the CSCU community from President Ojakian.
Oct 15, 2019
Dear CSCU Community,
As we continue the process of seeking accreditation as a single community college, I wanted to share the attached letter we sent to our accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), today in response to public comment submitted to the commission. CSCU has been in regular communication with NECHE, and I am fully confident that we will ultimately receive the accreditation we seek.
Today’s letter included the following specific points in outlining the reasons behind Students First:
- We must improve student success. Our completion and transfer out rates for all students are among the lowest in the country – with a 29-point achievement gap in college attainment between white and minoritized students. This puts our current accreditation in question. Despite the heroic efforts of our faculty, staff and administrators, all of our colleges suffer from low graduation and completion rates, fiscal perilousness, inadequate advisement systems, and lack of demonstrable student learning outcomes. Through a single accredited institution, we can deploy scarce resources where needed and respond nimbly to workforce needs as they arise.
- We must improve fiscal condition of the community colleges. The state appropriation for public higher education has steadily declined over the past decade. Without making significant structural changes and pooling rather than stretching our resources thinly, our college system is unsustainable. Students First does just this by deploying resources centrally, regionally and locally, and harnessing the talent and innovations found throughout our campuses.
- Sharing non-student facing services saves money and improves quality. A structure wherein the central office provides essential services to the colleges, such as technology, financial aid processing, and legal affairs, is more efficient and lower cost than duplicating the same services at 12 colleges.
As we continue the open and collaborative work toward the full implementation of Students First, I remain more committed than ever to access and student success. I hope you will take a moment to read today’s letter to NECHE.
View Letter (pdf)
July 16, 2019
Dear CSCU Community:
As we informed you at the time, a team from CSCU provided an update on the progress of Students First at the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) April meeting. This morning we received a response from NECHE, which I have attached to this email.
I am pleased to say that NECHE accepted our update, invited CSCU back for a presentation in April 2020, and provided helpful guidance as we work for accreditation of the one college by 2023.
In their response, NECHE recognizes that a major component of Students First is the commitment to keep all of our campuses open and fully operational – despite significant fiscal challenges – and maintain access to higher education options for students from all corners of Connecticut. The commission also commended CSCU for our pledge to ensure that student-facing services are kept intact as we move toward unification. These assurances – along with improving student outcomes – are central to Students First, and we appreciate the commission for this acknowledgment.
We should be encouraged that NECHE’s letter also charted a roadmap toward our ultimate accreditation as one college, outlining areas in which they will be seeking further information, including specifics on organization and governance, information on how academic programs will achieve consistency across campuses, and particulars on how institutional resources will be utilized to better serve students while at the same time tackling systemic financial concerns. Rest assured that CSCU – in an open and collaborative process driven by faculty, staff, and students – is already developing concrete plans which will be detailed in a report to be filed with the commission by April. It is particularly important to note that NECHE did not have specific ‘areas of concern’ – but did include helpful recommendations.
As we move forward with our efforts to improve student outcomes and put our colleges on a path toward fiscal sustainability, I will continue to keep you up to date.
February 21, 2019
Dear CSCU Community,
This morning, I provided the Board of Regents with an update on the Students First initiative, and I wanted to do the same for the entire CSCU community.
As you may recall, the plan involves two specific administrative strategies. The first being the development of a single administrative infrastructure to eliminate redundant functions system-wide and provide shared services to all colleges and universities. The second is the consolidation of the community colleges into one centrally-managed college with campuses remaining open at all current locations statewide. It is important to note that Students First continues to move forward on both fronts with completion anticipated by 2023.
A number of activities have taken place to begin the implementation of the first strategy.
- The VP of Purchasing, Janel Wright, started with the system in January. This is a new position created to enhance our purchasing power and improve our processes. Janel comes to us with a great deal of relevant experience. She has already introduced a number of key initiatives devoted to simplifying administrative functions, and is adept employing data analytics to drive improvements. This position was created with an overall goal of reducing spending in non-fixed costs by 4% or $1.8 million by Fiscal Year 2022.
- We also planned for reductions in facilities overtime. We’ll be working with campus administrative leadership on protocols to better control these rates for future budget cycles, with a goal of saving $2.4 million by 2020.
- We have already cut a number of costs through personnel reductions at system office and IT operating cost reductions from across the 17 schools totaling over $1 million. An additional $560,000 is expected in reductions in IT operating costs by 2021 across the system.
A great deal has taken place to begin the implementation of the second strategy in consultation with the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
- The new VP of Enrollment Management starts on March 4. Dr. Alison Buckley brings over 15 years of experience in both the college and university settings in enrollment management, marketing, recruitment, and program and budget management. Dr. Buckley currently serves as Associate VP for Enrollment Services at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland. During her tenure, Howard has been consistently recognized for best practices in the field of enrollment management and has had the strongest enrollment among Maryland’s community colleges.
- The search for three Regional Presidents is underway with semi-finalists being selected and interviewed. Regional forums with finalists are planned for mid-March through early April with recommendations to the Board for hire at their April 18 meeting. This process is engaging 3 Regional Advisory Committees constituted of faculty, staff, and foundation representatives.
- We are starting the process of consolidation of key administrative functions including Institutional Research and Information Technology, with changes in duties and reporting lines scheduled for July 1. These changes focus on centralization of common tasks across all 12 campuses with individual staff on the campuses devoted to more local needs.
- Lastly, where there has been attrition of staff in administrative positions that are slated for change under the Students First plan, campuses are posting new positions that will operate under the future single college. For instance, if a Dean of Administration has departed, the college has in some cases changed that position to an Associate Dean of Campus Operations (Capital and Northwestern) which will have a different role given the centralization of administrative functions and shared services. In addition, where Presidents have retired or left, they have been replaced by Interim Campus CEOs who have similar responsibilities but reduced salary. These permanent positions will be posted starting in the fall with active involvement of the new Regional Presidents in those searches. There are currently three Campus CEOs (Manchester, Capital and Middlesex) with one additional coming on board in July with the retirement of Dr. David Levinson at Norwalk Community College.
Our projections show a savings of $11 million through administrative consolidations affecting all 17 schools and $23 million in savings with the move into a single college. We will have a full update at the end of the fiscal year, but we are currently outperforming our approved budget (though still in the red) due in no small part to the continued “soft” hiring freeze and lower salaries for most newly-hired staff.
In addition, there are a number of academic related changes underway at the community colleges that will help ensure the future single college meets the needs of all students.
- The Students First ASA Consolidation committee met a number of times in Spring and Fall semester. Guidelines for program alignment were developed, and the charge of the committee was clarified. Workgroups with elected faculty representation have been formed for governance and general education workgroups.
- The general education workgroup, made up primarily of faculty, has developed a 21 credit core curriculum for the one college. This has gone through a campus comment period, has been revised based upon faculty feedback, and is now being aligned with the Transfer and Articulation (TAP) framework. A final proposal will be sent to each campus for an endorsement vote.
- The shared governance workgroup has begun to meet to look at the governance structure of the future single college. The group consists of 12 faculty and staff members elected by their campuses, and 6 members of the Consolidation Committee. The group has been charged with developing a statewide senate and curriculum committee as part of the new governance structure.
- The Student Success Center's Guided Pathways Task Force currently oversees nine committees that have been charged by Provost Jane Gates. These committees, which are led by faculty and staff from the CSCU community colleges, comprise more than 250 faculty, staff, administrators, and students.
- One of these teams, Choice Architecture, which is led by two faculty members, finalized and unanimously approved a proposal to establish six "Areas of Study" (also known as "Meta-majors") which will simplify the way in which program options are presented to students, leading to a more informed decision making process. This proposal is expected to the Academic and Student Affairs committee of the BOR later this semester.
- Another team of faculty and staff, the First Year Experience committee, has been working for a year with national experts to develop a course entitled "College and Career Success 101," which is intended to be a required course for most students enrolled at the singly-accredited community college. One of the outcomes of this three-credit course is that each student will be led through a process to develop an individualized academic plan which can then be monitored by professional advisors and faculty.
- The most recently charged committee is Alignment and Completion of Math and English (ACME). This group will include more than 100 members from the CSCU colleges and universities as well as representatives from UConn. Jobs for the Future is providing funding so that the Dana Center of UT Austin, who are national leaders of mathematics and English redesign, will advise ACME as they reconsider both developmental and college-level policy and practice.
- Finally, the next step in Guided Pathways as we move toward consolidation is the establishment of local teams on campuses to enact policy and other recommendations that are made by these nine teams. The Student Success Center will oversee a CSCU partnership with Achieving the Dream to establish Campus Student Success Teams at all twelve colleges as of July 1. College administrators will be forming these campus teams this spring with the goal of ensuring that campuses are empowered to enact unified policy and practice in a way that fits with local campus needs and identity.
Students First, coupled with student success initiatives already underway, is a critical step not just to create efficiencies and save money, but also to ensuring that we do everything in our power to help our students succeed in college and fill the jobs of the 21st century.
I look forward to sharing updates as we continue important work this spring.
June 18, 2018
Dear CSCU Community:
This week the Board of Regents will convene to discuss among other things, our proposed revisions to our Students First consolidation plan. In keeping with the promise to keep you informed, I am sharing our recommendation to the Board in advance of the meeting. I encourage all of you to review the Staff Report (pdf) that will be discussed in detail during the Board meeting on Thursday.
After the NEASC response to our Students First proposal in April, members of the Board and my leadership staff have taken a number of steps to determine our path forward. First, we met with Dr. Barbara Brittingham from NEASC to review the Commission’s response. At Dr. Brittingham’s suggestion, we also met with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) who assisted NEASC in reviewing our original proposal. They helped to identify ways to progress towards a more efficient organization while adhering to the BOR’s objectives of sustainable, quality, accessible public higher education, consistent with NEASC standards. CSCU college faculty, staff, and the Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) also offered suggestions for reaching the goals of removing barriers to student success, scaling best practices, streamlining administrative tasks, and aligning common procedures.
As a result, we are revising our Students First plan in three significant ways: extend our timeline for the single accredited community college to 2023 thereby keeping the 12 accreditations of the colleges, develop a more gradually paced academic planning and transition process, and maintain the current department chair structure. The revised plan is estimated to save $17M when fully implemented versus the $23M as originally proposed. Our revised plan also includes:
- Regionalizing our community colleges and creating a new leadership structure. We will hire three Regional Presidents in spring 2019, while maintaining the 12 college-based CEO, CFO, and CAO positions per NEASC
- Aligning college curricula statewide to support high quality educational programs and seamless transfer, including adoption of a statewide general education curriculum.
- Implementing initiatives such as guided pathways to improve and increase student enrollment, retention, and completion.
- Integrating administrative functions into centralized shared services.
- Sharing resources across campuses to stabilize critical college functions, reduce redundancies, and leverage
- Hiring a number of positions to raise additional income for the system including a VP of Enrollment Management and a CSCU Development
Our goal remains the same, to create a dynamic community college focused on helping students attain their individual educational goals, and responds to community and state needs. We also recognize that more time is needed to get the foundation in place for a change as large as this.
Beginning this fall, as directed by the Board, we will implement the immediate next steps of regionalizing the college structure, selecting new leadership, integrating and centralizing administrative functions, implementing Guided Pathways and aligning curriculum statewide. CSCU will establish metrics to document the results of regional reorganization, administrative integration, and academic and student affairs planning, to help identify areas for continued improvement. We will keep NEASC staff apprised of our efforts and invite them to attend future BOR Academic and Student Affairs committee meetings so that we may discuss our progress and prepare for the single accreditation process.
I want to thank everyone for their engagement in this important work, particularly those who are planning this summer for the Guided Pathways initiative. I will continue to provide updates on the progress and challenges related to implementation and new opportunities for our students and our colleges.
May 4, 2018
Dear CSCU Community:
Today, the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents reviewed progress on Students First and our on-going discussions with NEASC, our accrediting authority. Our goal has been and continues to be to protect and enhance the high quality, affordable education we offer Connecticut students. By necessity, there was no plan labeled “do nothing”, or “wait for things to get better”. The plan we settled on, comprising an administrative consolidation of the community colleges and the reorganizing of various college and university functions across the system, remains the right idea: Reduce management cost; protect and improve student services; contain tuition, and preserve locations.
Our discussions with NEASC this week have been informative and productive. Contrary to some interpretations of NEASC’s response last week, our respected accreditors did not reject our vision. The Commission has not said “no” to our proposal to form a single community college. NEASC, like us, is contending with uncharted territory amid changing conditions that challenge institutions, including accreditors.
We are working to identify ways to meet our goals and address student needs while coming to terms with our fiscal conditions. While they remain the worst-case outcomes we strive to avoid, shutting locations and dramatically raising tuition can be avoided, and must be avoided. By working with NEASC, our partners in government, and being open to improvements in our own thinking, it will be avoided.
We want to thank the Board of Regents and all the faculty and staff who have sent their recommendations and offered their support as we move forward. We are working with legislators in hopes of securing funding to stabilize the colleges’ budget in the short term to mitigate cuts that will negatively impact students.
We will have more information at next week’s Board of Regents meeting on May 10th and will continue to provide email updates as things progress.
President, Connecticut State Colleges & Universities
Chairman, Connecticut Board of Regents
April 24, 2018
Dear CSCU Community,
First, we want to give our sincerest thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly over the last year on the development of our Students First Plan. The countless hours and hours spent compiling data, constructing and editing this bold plan of action to protect and preserve our students’ future is not lost on anyone. It meant time spent away from your daily responsibilities of serving CSCU students.
Students First was created to avert a major crisis for our institutions and our students. Today, NEASC has issued a response to our Students First consolidation plan. It is not the decision that is best for our students, nor is it the decision for which we had hoped. This decision by NEASC is devastating to our ability to hold the line on tuition and keep all campuses open. In the face of an on-going fiscal emergency, it forces us to consider options that we have strongly fought against because it will harm the 50,000 students who rely on their campuses and their campus communities.
Since April of 2017, NEASC has guided us and included in that guidance was the recommendation that CSCU submit a “substantive change” document for review and approval. Given that NEASC has voiced concern about our institutions’ sustainability, and is fully aware that they cannot financially survive in their current structure on their own, we followed their advice every step along the way. While we expected further guidance, we did not expect NEASC to redirect us to consider “candidacy for accreditation”, a new process that will take another 5 years. The problems that our institutions and students face cannot wait 5 years. In 5 years, our institutions will be financially insolvent.
In the coming days we will review all of our options including legislative and accrediting options, a review of tuition rates, and the closing of one or more of our campuses.
Attached is the response from NEASC. We will keep you informed as we move forward.
CSCU President Mark Ojakian
Chairman Matt Fleury, Board of Regents
NEASC Response (pdf)
March 19, 2018
On behalf of the Board of Regents, last Friday we submitted a Substantive Change request seeking approval from the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) to consolidate our 12 accredited Connecticut community colleges into a one accredited College with 12 campuses. The document includes details on the consolidated organizational structure and integrated administrative functions and outlines our vision for an academically integrated institution. It preserves our core values which are to provide Connecticut students with an affordable, accessible, high quality education that meets their personal goals and the workforce needs of our communities and state.
The full document can be found at http://www.ct.edu/studentsfirst. The request will be on the Commission’s April agenda.
This was an enormous team effort and we’ve appreciated all of your support through this year long planning process. There is a lot of work to do going forward to make this plan a reality and I thank you in advance for your efforts.
Mark E. Ojakian
March 9, 2018
Today, the Board of Regents unanimously voted to approve our Students First substantive change document that outlines the structural changes needed for the consolidation of our community colleges into one College. The next step is submission to NEASC on March 16, 2018. We did receive lots of good feedback from the Board and the Academic Affairs committee that we will include prior to the deadline.
Once the document is submitted to NEASC, we expect a response sometime in April. The current draft along with all the appendices are available for review at any time on our Students First page - http://www.ct.edu/studentsfirst. These materials will be updated after our submission of the final document to NEASC and we will provides updates as we have them on the process.
Once again, I want to thank everyone who had a hand in this effort to date. In particular, I look forward to working with the Academic and Student Affairs Consolidation Committee and the Faculty and Student Advisory Committees as our planning continues in the coming months. Your time, energy, feedback, and commitment is critical to our success.
Mark E. Ojakian
March 2, 2018
Dear CSCU community,
Yesterday we provided our Board of Regents with a draft of the substantive change document we are preparing for submission to NEASC to consolidate our 12 community colleges into one College. This bold, unprecedented structural change is outlined in the narrative and appendices you can find on our Students First page http://www.ct.edu/studentsfirst.
I truly appreciate everyone who has contributed over the last year to the planning process including those of you who have served or are now serving on committees, those who participated at our many town hall meetings, and those who responded to our surveys and spoke during Board meetings with comments and critiques.
I understand that this change affects all of us but particularly our students. This proposal describes ways in which this new College will address current challenges and improve opportunities for students while streamlining administrative functions to the benefit of all campuses.
The Board will review these materials in preparation for a special Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting on March 5th and their full Board meeting on March 8th. With their feedback and approval we’ll finalize the document and submit to NEASC by the March 16th deadline for their review.
We have lots of work yet to do to make this vision a reality but I am confident we are on our way!
Mark E. Ojakian
Dec 8, 2017
Dear CSCU Community,
I am pleased to announce the formation of the Students First Academic and Student Affairs Consolidation Committee. The next phase of Students First planning requires the development of a plan to bring into alignment twelve campuses into a single accredited community college with clear, consistent practices, policies and procedures that provide a seamless transition for students while maintaining the uniqueness, identity and community connections of each campus. An initial action for the committee is to develop the mission statement for the one community college.
I have charged this committee with the responsibility to work out the details associated with the one community college consolidation related to academic and student affairs on the twelve community colleges. Specifically, the committee will provide guidance on the alignment of academic programs (shared and differentiated), assessment, policies, procedures, institutional data, websites, catalogs and other relevant issues to campus constituents.
The invited committee members include:
Del Cummings, FAC (NVCC)
Robert Brown, FAC (TxCC)
Judy Wallace, FAC (MXCC)
Lynn Roller, FAC (GCC)
T.J. Barber, FAC (MCC)
Hector Navarro, SAC (NVCC)
Holly Palmer, SAC (COSC)
Doris Arrington, (CCC)
Duncan Harris, (MCC)
Frederick Douglass Knowles, (TRCC)
Teresa Foley, (ACC)
Alfred Williams, (QVCC)
Sheila Solernou, (GCC)
Kristina Testa-Buzzee, (NCC)
Shirley Adams, (COSC)
Robin Avant, (HCC)
Alese Mulvihill (HCC)
Eileen Rhodes (CCC)
Vicki Bozzuto, (GCC)
Ellen Peltier, (ACC & TxCC)
Gennaro DeAngelis, (ACC &TXCC)
Greg DeSantis, (SO-Student Success Center)
Nancy Melnicsak, (SO)
Steven McDowell, (SO-Enrollment)
Ken Klucznik, (SO-TAP)
Candace Barrington, (SO-TAP)
I am also pleased to announce the appointments of Dr. Patricia Bouffard and Dean Michael Stefanowicz to the CSCU System Office to lead this effort. Dr. Patricia Bouffard and Dean Michael Stefanowicz will serve as co-chairs to the Students First Academic and Student Affairs Consolidation Committee for the community colleges effective January 5, 2018. The co-chairs will report to Dr. Jane Gates, CSCU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.
Patricia Bouffard, D.N.Sc., M.S., B.S.N., will serve as the Students First Academic Program Director. Dr. Bouffard currently holds the position of Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NWCCC) since July, 2009.
Dr. Bouffard has extensive experience over a 20 year period in management in community colleges. Prior to her appointment at NWCCC she held management positions in Academic Affairs at Naugatuck Valley Community College and Mattatuck Community College. She has managed a wide variety of academic and student affairs services including hiring recommendations for faculty and professional staff, curriculum development of new programs, certificates and courses; program and discipline reviews, program inventory. She has served on the strategic planning steering committee, held oversight of national accreditation preparation including New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Early Childhood Education, Medical Assisting, Nursing and Veterinary Technology; and supervised catalog review and budgets. Dr. Bouffard supervised the Learning Resource Center, Academic Skills Center, Distance Learning Director, chaired the college Institutional Research Board (IRB), oversaw the college approval for dual enrollment and managed counseling and student activities.
Michael Stefanowicz, M. Ed., B.A., will serve as the Interim CSCU Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. Michael Stefanowicz holds the positon of Dean of Academics/Chief Academic Officer at Asnuntuck Community College’s since January 2015. In September 2017, Dean Stefanowicz was appointed to a dual role as Dean of Academic Affairs at Tunxis Community College. Mr. Stefanowicz brings 20 years of community college experience. Prior to joining Asnuntuck, he worked in various roles at Manchester Community College, serving as Division Director for Liberal Arts, Director of Transitional Programs, Coordinator of Advising, and as a Counselor.
In his current role, Dean Stefanowicz supervises full and part-time faculty and three department chairs, along with other employees and directors from the academic division at ACC. At Tunxis Community College, he oversees Academic Affairs, Counseling/Advising and Media Instructional Technology. During his tenure as Academic Dean, he has co-chaired the NEASC 10 year accreditation visit and self-study process, currently serves as co-chair of the PA 12-40 Developmental Education system-wide committee, serves on the Center for Teaching Steering Committee, and is a member of the CSCU Complete College America leadership team and the Guided Pathways Task Force. Dean Stefanowicz has overseen the program “normalization” of Asnuntuck’s Associate Degrees and Certificates, co-led the launch of the Second Chance Pell certificate offerings at the Connecticut correctional institutions, converted the Registered Medical Assistant program from credit-free to credit, and has managed various program reviews, modifications, and terminations. Dean Stefanowicz has taught at ACC, MCC, and Holyoke Community College, and is a member of the Enfield Adult Education Advisory Board.
I hope you will join me in supporting the important work of this group as we continue with our Students First planning.
Dec 4, 2017
Dear CSCU Community,
As you know, Students First includes a strategy endorsed by the Board of Regents to consolidate our 12 community colleges into one centrally managed institution with local campuses. Since early spring, we have been sharing information and collecting input on the consolidation proposal with community college presidents, faculty, staff, students and community leaders. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has engaged in this process and hope you will continue to participate in committees, meetings and discussions as we move forward.
In addition to the April town halls on all 12 campuses and the November webinars we held for college faculty, staff, and students, we’ve met with: the Faculty and Student Advisory Committees to engage their members in discussions on academic and student affairs; campus registrars and continuing education professionals to hear their feedback on the proposed structure; college foundations to address their questions and concerns about local identity and fundraising; chambers of commerce and other workforce related groups to solicit their support for a regional approach; and legislative leaders to gather their suggestions on the future of the colleges. These discussions have improved the consolidation proposal and will greatly enrich the implementation.
In addition, staff has been working to document the estimated savings for the community college consolidation, which was targeted at $28M. On December 6, the Board of Regent’s Finance Committee will review the preliminary fiscal analysis. Materials for that meeting have been posted to the CSCU website and are available here on page 11 http://www.ct.edu/images/uploads/Finance-Agenda-12-06-2017.pdf?10104 .
Our planning is all the more urgent as state funding continues to decline in the current fiscal year. This is a harsh reminder of the reality that our system is facing and another indication that our current system is unsustainable. If we don’t implement the proposal, the colleges will be in a deficit position by 2020 and more than $100M in the red by 2022.
Slowing the consolidation only worsens our fiscal circumstances. We need to find savings quickly in order to stop the erosion of student services and the colleges’ limited reserves. If we do not implement our plan, we would be faced considering significant tuition increases. I will not put the burden of balancing our budget on our students when there are other options before us.
There must be a new model for our colleges that cuts administrative spending and prioritizes our limited resources on academic programs and student supports. The proposed new organizational structure consolidates administrative functions, promotes greater coordination across campuses, focuses spending on teaching and learning and allows us to keep all of our campuses open.
Our staff and faculty have the passion, skills, and commitment to transform our institutions into one that preserves academic excellence and prepares our students for the competitive workforce that awaits them. Moving forward, our community colleges will play an even bigger role in higher education and preparing students to pursue their dreams and careers. That’s why this restructuring is so critical to the future of our students, our institutions and our state.
I look forward to continue working with all of you as we make this plan a reality.
Mark E. Ojakian, President
CT State Colleges and Universities (CSCU)
Nov 19, 2017
Dear CSCU community,
Thank you to everyone who participated in our Student First webinars. As promised, attached are answers to questions that were submitted but not addressed during the sessions. The FAQ document also will be posted on our website by the end of the day Monday.
You can watch the sessions at any time on our Students First page: http://www.ct.edu/studentsfirst/about#webinars
Thank you again for your suggestions, questions and constructive feedback.
Nov 6, 2017
We are looking forward to our Students First forum Tuesday from 12-2pm with faculty and staff and on Wednesday from 11:00am-12:30pm with students to discuss the community college consolidation proposal.
Thanks to the IT and public information staff serving as leads for each campus, we hope to have as many participants as possible from all 12 campuses. Each college will be live streaming both forums on campus - check with your campus leaders for the exact room. As part of the two-hour session, every college will have an opportunity to submit questions via the chat function on Web Ex.
For those who attend the forum in person at Capital Community College, you'll have an opportunity to submit questions on cards but because of the technology set up for the session, no questions will be asked directly by the audience.
We will get to as many questions on a range of topics as possible during the session including addressing some that have already been submitted in advance through this email or the survey. If any questions go unaddressed, we will update our FAQ document and distribute shortly after the forum.
We are very appreciative of the survey responses we've received to date and encourage you to complete the survey www.ct.edu/studentsfirst after the forum to provide additional feedback.
Thank you for your engagement and support!
Oct 17, 2017
Dear CSCU Community,
When we launched Students First back in April, it was with the goal of strengthening our ability to provide students with a high quality, affordable, and accessible post-secondary education that enables them to achieve their life and career goals. We did this in the context of a growing structural deficit, declining state support, and recognition that our system is unsustainable in both the short and long term without real structural change. None of this has changed over the last six months and, in fact, fiscal challenges have become more pressing.
Despite these challenges, planning has continued. Our Students First teams have identified recommendations to put us on a viable path forward, help us to meet our savings targets over time, and in some cases, increase revenue for the CSCU system. We are providing the Board of Regents with an update during the October 19, 2017 meeting and want to share our progress with the greater CSCU community.
This summer over 100 CSCU faculty and staff engaged in the design and planning of the two Students First strategies endorsed and approved by the Board of Regents:
- Strategy 1: a single administrative infrastructure to eliminate redundant functions system wide and provide shared services to all universities and colleges
- Strategy 2: one centrally managed community college with campuses statewide
Led by a system office or campus leader, the functional area teams included subject matter experts from across the system. In support of shared governance, members, either elected or nominated by their campus leadership groups representing faculty, professional staff and other campus employees, were integral members of the planning teams.
All recommendations were required to meet our guiding principles:
- Ensure students are at the center of all decisions
- Prioritize teaching, learning, and high quality academic programming
- Preserve and enhance student support services
- Safeguard educational access and affordability
- Be conscientious stewards of the students' and state's investments in our institutions
Strategy 1: A Single Administrative Infrastructure
For the first strategy, teams identified a sustainable administrative structure in the areas of Facilities Management, Financial Aid, Fiscal Affairs, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Institutional Research. These strategies wherever possible included all 17 institutions and system office; however, given the current centralization of our community college enterprise systems, more opportunities for efficiency can be identified at the community colleges, which share one platform. We fully intend to reach our original plan for targeted savings though the timeline may take longer and alternative strategies may be necessary.
The Students First Planning Teams drafted reports in their respective areas of focus outlining in detail many strategies, reporting structures, and best practices that promote shared services and collaboration among all of our institutions. The process to develop the proposals extended over several months, not only for the?thoughtful development of ideas, but also in respect to shared governance--where?each stakeholder could participate and return to their agency and deliberate as the process unfolded.?
These reports, reviewed by our Students First Steering Committee, are now ready for public comment. I encourage everyone to read the reports as well as the summary presentation prepared for the Board of Regents meeting on October 19, 2017 that are hosted on our website at www.ct.edu/studentsfirst.
Some notable system wide recommendations from the first strategy include activities that increase opportunities for students to fund their education and promote services that increase financial literacy. To meet the goal of safeguarding affordability, the Financial Aid Team recommended creation of a system-wide financial literacy initiative to provide personal finance workshops and directly advise students and their families on money management, paying for college, personal budgeting and loan repayment. This effort can help address the issue of growing student debt and help families to make informed decisions about managing the cost of education.
The Fiscal Affairs Team recommends the creation of shared services for all 17 colleges and universities in areas such as purchasing and contracts. This will allow CSCU to take advantage of our collective volume in negotiating the best prices for non-academic goods and services and streamlining the contracting process for our institutions.
Additionally, our Human Resources and Institutional Research Teams recommend new models for shared services with a new reporting structure designed to leverage system wide expertise. The teams recommend the creation of centers of expertise in topics such as benefits and labor relations in the human resources area and data analytics and assessment in the institutional research area. This use of staff and resources can improve not only our strategic human resources management but also our reporting both to external stakeholders such as the state legislature and to our institutions to assess their effectiveness.
The above recommendations are just a few examples of the cooperation and creative thinking we have witnessed throughout the summer that make our CSCU system great. We put faculty and staff experts together to solve our challenges. They leveraged our collective size and scale to find efficiencies across our system; all with the goal of improving our administrative practices so that critical resources can be devoted to student teaching and learning. Only a few of these recommendations will require policy changes by the Board of Regents. The majority of the administrative recommendations can be implemented as soon as time and resources are available to complete.
Strategy 2: One Centrally Managed Community College
For the second strategy, a community college consolidation team made up of presidents, academic deans, and deans of students and administration developed a new organizational structure for a single accredited community college. The proposed structure includes one community college, with regional management and twelve campuses. This structure keeps open all of our existing campuses and satellites. Colleges are organized under three regions to create efficiencies, promote consistency across regions, build upon strong relationships across campuses, and align resources such as academic programs, student services, and enrollment. This new structure seeks to eliminate duplication and allow for implementation of services wherever most appropriate--at the campus, regional, new institutional level.
The presentation prepared for the Board of Regents, as well as a frequently asked questions document on the community college consolidation are also available on our website at www.ct.edu/studentsfirst.
In order to meet NEASC requirements for accreditation, new institutional leadership positions of Vice Chancellor for the Community College, Chief Academic Officer and a Chief Financial Officer are included in the organizational structure. Each campus would be led by a Vice President with responsibility for local campus operations, delivery of academic and student programs and services, and community relations. This ensures that we maintain the local identity and community connection of each campus. As we developed this proposal over the summer, we communicated regularly with NEASC to seek their guidance and are invited to bring forward a substantive change to the Commission in the spring.
Benefits of a single community college for students are vast. The new structure eliminates many barriers to success and degree completion that currently exist. For example, students will be able to register and take classes easily at multiple campuses without needing to transfer credits back and forth and all courses will count towards the student’s GPA as well as their degree. This allows students the opportunity to pursue academic fields based on their interest and schedule rather than geography, and to transfer seamlessly to both in-state and out-of-state universities. The proposed structure significantly reduces management at the colleges while maintaining critical resources for students at the campus level. In particular, it calls for an increased focus on enrollment management, advising and retention to maximize the impact of our guided pathways initiative.
This proposal is the first phase of planning for the single college. We will be developing a process to align curriculum across the 12 campuses with broad faculty participation. Initial work in this area has already begun with a group of community college representatives from the Faculty Advisory Committee who have drafted a proposed shared governance curriculum review structure. Their input has been essential in getting this conversation started, and much more will be done in the months ahead leveraging faculty efforts and experiences such as TAP, our coordinated college-wide nursing program, and other innovative models.
By re-examining our administrative functions and establishing a single community college for the state, we can eliminate unnecessary duplication of efforts, find efficiencies through scale and shared resources, remove obstacles to students' academic progress, integrate best practices in student support, increase access to unique programs, facilitate seamless transfers, and ensure all students' career readiness.
Both the administrative and community college consolidation recommendations require us to embrace change and new ways of doing our work together. The strategies combined provide a targeted savings of $41M and as I said earlier, we fully intend to reach those goals though it may take us longer than planned to reach them. Those who have labored this summer to design these recommendations have seen the promise of these improvements for our system and our students.
We are now ready for input from the broader CSCU community and have created a survey to capture direct feedback at www.ct.edu/studentsfirst. In addition, we will host discussions, particularly with community college students, faculty, and staff about these proposals in the coming weeks. The planning teams will review input and make adjustments to their recommendations if needed and the Students First Steering Committee will conduct a last review as well before submission of final recommendations to the Board of Regents at their December 14, 2017 meeting.
Again, I want to thank all the CSCU faculty, staff, and college and university presidents who worked tirelessly this summer to prepare these recommendations. I am confident with their best thinking, your input and our collective energy we can place our system on a sustainable path forward that strengthens the high quality, affordable and accessible education our colleges and universities provide to students.
Mark E. Ojakian, President
onnecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU)
May 17, 2017
Dear CSCU Community,
The Students First planning process is now underway! The administrative consolidation planning teams will begin their work immediately and I look forward to engaging in their discussions throughout the summer.
The six administrative teams have been assembled with representatives selected by the collective bargaining units and constituent unit leadership groups as well as faculty and staff volunteers and subject matter experts from the campuses and System Office. We anticipate additional individuals may be added to the teams as the work progresses to add expertise. The charge to each team is to identify a sustainable structure for providing these services to the campuses while leveraging and optimizing both human and financial resources.
In addition to the six administrative teams, a community college consolidation team, led by President Michael Rooke from Northwestern CT Community College and comprised of the twelve community college presidents has been formed to propose a new structure under one centrally managed college. A subcommittee of the presidents and deans of administration and academic and student affairs will fine tune the model to ensure it both meets the needs of individual campuses as well as NEASC and other professional program accrediting bodies.
I am happy to share the webpage http://www.ct.edu/studentsfirst that we've created to house the information on the planning process. You will find the listing of the administrative planning team members as well as members of the Steering Committee, Community College Consolidation committee and subcommittee. I am working with the Student Advisory Committee to identify students to participate in this effort as well.
As the teams conduct their work, notes from their meetings will be posted to the site as well as all messages I send out about the process. You will also find a FAQ on this page and links to videos from some of the town hall meetings.
Though the teams couldn't accommodate all who were interested, I want to thank all of you who volunteered and I continue to welcome your thoughts and ideas by email to CSCU-President@ct.edu. Additionally I will provide an opportunity for system-wide feedback on the draft recommendations before they are presented to the Board of Regents so that all who are interested can weigh in their suggestions and concerns.
Again thank you all for your engagement in this process. I am confident together we can keep students first.
May 10, 2017
Dear CSCU community,
I want to thank all of you who participated in our campus town hall meetings. It was a great opportunity to hear about your concerns and to continue to learn about the vital role that our institutions play both with our students and in our communities. I appreciate your questions, candor and offers of assistance. In the next week you will receive a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to share responses to your many questions as well as an update on the membership of the planning teams and the timeline for getting the work started.
Again, thank you for welcoming me to your campuses. I encourage you to continue sending you good ideas to this address. I am confident that together we can move our system forward.
Mark E. Ojakian
April 24, 2017
Dear CSCU community,
I am writing today to provide a brief update on the Students First planning process. We are busy forming teams in six key areas to design and implement the administrative consolidation strategy. Many of you have reached out to volunteer and the Community College Governance Assembly and labor unions representing the community colleges, SUOAF and the CSU Faculty Leadership Group are identifying representatives to serve in addition to subject matter experts from the campuses and system office. We will make an announcement on the teams in early May after all the recommendations have been received.
In addition, I mentioned that I would be forming a Steering Committee to join me in reviewing all recommendations and savings projections from the teams. I am pleased to report that the following individuals have agreed to serve on the Steering Committee:
- President Joe Bertolino, Southern CT State University
- President Zulma Toro, Central CT State University
- President Jim Lombella, Asnuntuck Community College
- President Paul Broadie, Housatonic Community College
- Holly Palmer, BOR Student Advisory Committee Chair
- Dan Barrett, Western CT State University, Faculty Senate Chair
- Michael Buccilli, Gateway Community College, Director of Counseling and Student Services
Lastly, I am pleased to announce that President Mike Rooke has agreed to lead the effort on the community college consolidation strategy working closely with the presidents and management of the colleges. That work is getting underway as we speak and there will be future opportunities for campus community feedback into that planning process as well.
I hope to see many of you at the upcoming Town Halls. The input we've received from the 6 sessions held to date has been very helpful and we look forward to hearing your ideas about how to make our system the best it can be.
April 13, 2017
Dear CSCU Community,
Last week I recommended to the Board of Regents two management strategies to help address our system's fiscal challenges. One strategy is consolidation of administrative functions and the other is an organizational consolidation for our community colleges. The Board approved both strategies along with the savings target for each. These strategies are intended to deal with our structural deficit which only increases in the next few years and threatens the affordability and accessibility of our institutions.
As I've learned from my first Town Hall meetings, there is significant uncertainty and some confusion about the strategies. So first, I would like to provide some clarification. The consolidation will integrate administrative, not instructional or student support, functions across all institutions as well as the system office to eliminate redundancies and ultimately run more efficiently. The target savings of this recommended strategy is approximately $13 million. The second approved strategy is an operational consolidation of leadership and management of our 12 community colleges. The savings target for this recommendation is approximately $28 million. To be clear, reductions in faculty and staff that directly serve students are not included in either of these strategies and no campuses or student support or academic programs are being closed.
I believe these strategies support our common goal of providing our students with the high quality learning experience they need and deserve. It is a critical step to putting our system on a sustainable and predictable path forward and ultimately enhances teaching, learning and the high quality academic programs we provide our students.
Now our attention turns to the important work of finalizing the design of "Students First" and initiating its implementation. To move forward with these strategies, I am establishing implementation teams for specific administrative areas: Fiscal Affairs, Facilities, Human Resources, Information Technology, Institutional Research, and Financial Aid Processing. Shortly I will be announcing the creation of a separate implementation team to address the community college management consolidation.
Each team will be led by a system office manager in the selected functional area with teams made up of subject matter experts from the campuses. In addition, members, either elected or nominated representing the faculty, professional staff and other campus employees, will be invited to participate.
The teams will be charged to assess the current organizational structure, inventory campus activities, ascertain staff skills available through the system, identify technology supports needed to facilitate streamlining of processes, and document opportunities to integrate functions. I will establish a Steering Committee representing college and university presidents to join me in reviewing all recommendations and savings projections from the teams.
The process for each implementation team will be shared on this website including:
- written documents that include the charge, meeting procedures, and schedule,
- list of members,
- meeting times, dates and locations, and;
- meeting minutes.
Individuals are encouraged to provide their suggestions to CSCU-President@ct.edu. Your input as CSCU community members will be critical to designing this plan and helping to move the system forward.
The work of each team will start immediately with members identified and recommended to my office and meetings starting in April. An implementation framework and timeline will be presented to the Board of Regents by their June meeting so we will be working as quickly as possible to get each team established.
As I said in my open letter to the CSCU community last week, building a sustainable organizational model will be a monumental task, but a critical one for our system's future. But we must act now in order to thrive in the future.
Thank you in advance for your hard work and support. Together we can give our institutions the opportunity to grow and be even greater than they are today with a stable financial future.
Mark E. Ojakian