Eastern, Southern, Central and Western Connecticut state universities face cuts, consolidation and concessions, all aimed at helping close Connecticut's budget deficit. As a English education major and a member of the student government at Western, I know that the proposed changes are for the worse.
Under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's current proposal, the Connecticut State University System (composed of Eastern, Southern, Central and Western) will have its block grant cut by 10 percent. In addition, a new board of regents, which will oversee these four schools, the community college system and Charter Oak State College, appears to have the ability to remove up to 15 percent of a given school's budget. As the community colleges are much more inexpensive to run, Western and its three sister schools could lose up to a quarter of their budgets when combined with the 10 percent cut to the CSU block grant.
A university isn't closed in a day — it's stripped down year after year until there's nothing left worth funding.
Although there has been a large amount of bad press concerning top-heavy management and questionable employee termination procedures within the CSU office, the proposed consolidation is not the answer. Managing the 36,000 students in the CSU system is a task that's been shown to be unmanageable by the central office. Add more students from the community colleges and Charter Oak and it should be clear the layers of bureaucracy will continue to grow and be mismanaged.
The central office administrators may have made some mistakes over the past year, but the reorganization of the CSU will only hurt students. We should not pay for their mistakes. Our degrees will be devalued by the proposed merger. Employers will not know what to make of this new beast as students enter the job market.
Among the joys of going to Western is having classes of fewer than 40 students, interacting daily with tenured professors and being able to speak with them individually. Yet hiring freezes for the university are already in effect. Our enrollment increased by 4 percent last year as more students chose to attend Western for an affordable education.
The faculty hiring freeze means our class sizes are already growing beyond capacity. Mega-sections of introductory English classes are being taught by graduate students to meet the needs of first-year students. Should the governor's proposals go through, the number of available classes will decrease, resulting in extended college careers and dwindling graduation rates. Students also will be seeing more adjunct faculty who do not foster the long-term relationships offered by many of our tenured professors.
The tuition hikes resulting from these cuts mean Connecticut's most affordable universities will be providing sub-par education at an even greater price to students, many of whom come from humble means.
Connecticut officials worry about the loss of recent graduates who find work in other states — the brain drain. Eighty percent of CSU graduates stay in state to work. The University of Connecticut, however, has a much higher rate of brain drain and is facing only a 10 percent cut to its block grant.
Connecticut's position in the knowledge corridor means our economic recovery will be based on producing college graduates to take jobs here in stem cell science, technology, engineering and math. Our state universities provide the only affordable education in those areas for many Connecticut students. Limiting their access to these programs would hinder the state's economic recovery.
I know as a student that the proposed changes to the governance of our universities are not for the better.
Daniel Ravizza, 21, of Danbury is a junior majoring in English and secondary education at Western Connecticut State University, where he is also a senator in the student government association.
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Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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