- The 12 community colleges in Connecticut could soon be operating through three regional structures, a move that should save $17 million by 2023 by combining administrative functions and better aligning academics, according to the Hartford Courant.
- The state Board of Regents for Higher Education is expected to approve the proposal today, according to the Courant, and regional consolidations would begin immediately with three new regional presidents in place by fall of 2019.
- An accrediting panel had turned down a plan that would have established the single statewide college institution immediately, and forced the colleges to take a more “realistic” intermediate step and then move to the single college in 2023.
Community colleges nationwide are facing financial hardships based on enrollment declines. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says enrollment in two-year institutions last year was down 1.7% overall, though that was a smaller decline than the 2.6% drop from 2015 to 2016. Enrollment peaked in 2010.
Tidewater Community College in Virginia recently announced more layoffs after five years when its enrollment dropped from 48,000 to 34,000, and Pima Community College in Arizona in April said it will make staff reductions of 6%. Last December, St. Louis Community College laid off nearly 100 faculty members and staff.
Inside Higher Education reported that enrollment declines are a major reason for consolidation plans. Georgia has combined two- and four-year institutions to reduce expenses and Louisiana has announced it will merge its eight technical and community college campuses. Meanwhile, Wisconsin officials have approved a plan that would merge some of its 13 two-year colleges to make them “branches” of state four-year universities.
A recent report from the TIAA Institute found that the decision-making process about such mergers is often is costly and difficult and financial gains typically take a while to materialize. A successful consolidation 20 years ago in Kentucky, however, has resulted in a 20% increase in enrollment in that state's its two-year system.
Independently, Cumberland County College in New Jersey, facing a $2 million deficit, has entered talks to merge with nearby Rowan College at Gloucester County (formerly Gloucester County College). The former Burlington County College and Gloucester County College recently partnered with Rowan University and changed their names to include Rowan College to reflect the strength of the partnerships. All three institutions are independent of each other.
In Pennsylvania, a recent report for stare legislators recommended the state consider several options, including merging its 14 four-year universities into five institutions or shifting all of them under the umbrella of one of the big state universities such as Penn State.