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Consolidations proposed for state college/university system

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The president of the Connecticut State College and University system is recommending the consolidation of administrative personnel across the 17 colleges and universities and an operational consolidation at the 12 community colleges to help meet serious budgetary challenges.

In a letter released Monday to the CSCU community, Mark Ojakian said it has become abundantly clear the system's operational costs are outpacing revenues, "creating a true structural deficit."

Ojakian is scheduled to present his consolidation plan Thursday to the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education.

He says his proposal integrates "back office" functions, such as purchasing and human resources, at the various schools. The changes are expected to save approximately $13 million. He also is calling for a significant reduction of campus leadership at the community colleges, a proposal expected to save $28 million.

The system operates with a $1.2 billion annual budget. State funding to the system has declined 12.4 percent in recent years, forcing school officials to cut costs and increase tuition and fees. The system is now facing at least a $35 million decrease for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Reductions in faculty are not included in Ojakian's proposal.

"We need to look at our organization and determine how it can be reconfigured to ensure that resources are focused on teaching and learning and we're putting our students first," Ojakian said.

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This story been corrected to show the consolidation plan will be presented to the board Thursday, not Monday.