Tax Analysis Inaccurately Skews CT College Consolidation Costs
The ill-conceived idea of consolidating Connecticut’s 12 community colleges into one massive college has been around for about five years. Along the way, many have asked questions and expressed concerns about how this could possibly benefit our students and our communities.
There are now legislators who are beginning to ask themselves these same questions as they realize that the closing of a college in the area they represent, to be replaced by a branch campus of a college that is not in their region, may not benefit voters in the communities. they serve.
A bill requiring legislative approval before the Board of Regents (BOR) was merged or closed, one of the community colleges was rejected by the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee (HB5300) the 17th of March.
Similar bills have received an affirmative vote from this committee in previous sessions to die before reaching the floor of the full legislature. This time it looked like the bill could go through the entire legislature, until, that is, the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) stepped in and decided to add a “Tax note” to the bill stating, bizarrely, that if this merger were stopped, it would cost the state millions of dollars “…which could begin in FY22, as the board must consequently rehire many campus-level leadership positions to maintain the accreditation of the 12 community colleges.”
This statement is simply not true. All 12 community colleges are currently accredited. In fact, in order for students to continue to receive financial aid seamlessly, all 12 colleges will need to remain accredited until the consolidated college is accredited. So the positions that must be retained for certification have not been eliminated, they are there, and they are being filled, at this time.
What is not said is that the regional administrative structure, especially the administrators of the 12 colleges, which was created as part of the consolidation process, is an additional tax burden and is currently costing the system millions of dollars while doing little or nothing to support and enhance the student experience at any of the colleges at this time.
The OFA presents itself as a “…office of nonpartisan fiscal research and analysis for the Connecticut General Assembly.” It further indicates that it was created to provide tax information that would be “…impartial and independent.” It seems that’s not exactly how this office works.
OFA Tax note goes on to state that, “These costs are expected to exceed, by millions of dollars, the savings realized from the concurrent layoffs and demotion of regional and consolidated college staff titles. In FY23, the net savings from consolidation are estimated to be $10.9 million…”
The OFA doesn’t seem to dig too deep or ask too many questions when presented with data. Whether it’s a fact, an opinion, or just a lie, it seems to be accepted as fact and published as such.
In reality, 1) the current contract, as negotiated by the Board of Regents and community college unions, contains a non-termination clause, and 2) if a title is downgraded, the person currently in that position is “in red circle. ” and remain at the same rank and salary until that person leaves. Therefore, there are no immediate savings in downgrading a post. It can take years to see these “savings” depending on how long the current employee stays in the downgraded position.
Additionally, the OFA tax memo claims that community college consolidation has already produced net savings and indicates that it projects net savings in fiscal year 2023 to be $10.9 million.
No figures are provided to support this claim. In recent years, the system office has built a new administrative structure while maintaining 12 independently accredited colleges. As college attrition has reduced staff, system office expenses for consolidated services have increased by tens of millions of dollars annually.
A comparison of total state university (CSU) and community college (CCC) spending by full-time equivalent (FTE) student numbers between FY 2018 and FY 2021 appears to belie the claim that the consolidation saved money for Date.
|CT State Universities (CSU)
|CT Community Colleges (CCC)
|FISCAL YEAR 2018 (June 2018 Board Finance Committee Report)
$668,141,871 = total expenses
23,261 = Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Students
$668,141,871/$23,261 = $28,724 per FTE student
|FISCAL YEAR 2018 ( June 2018 Board Finance Committee Report)
$461,226,043 = total expenses
26,840 = Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Students
$461,226,043/$26,840 = $17,184 per FTE student
|FY2021 (See Finance Committee Report June 2021)
$712,200,253 = total expenses
20,736 = Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Students
$712,200,253/20,736 = $34,346 per FTE student = 19.6% increase over 2018
|FY2021 (See Finance Committee Report June 2021)
$487,115,428 = total expenses
20,817 = Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Students
$487,115,428/20,817 = $23,400 per FTE student = 36.2% increase over 2018
If total CCC spending had grown at the same rate per FTE as USC from 2018 to 2021, total spending would have been $427,832,316, or about $60 million less than was spent.
During the pandemic, one would expect CSUs to face the greatest fiscal challenge as they had to bear the expenses of empty residences. Yet, overall, we find that CCCs’ enrollment decline was roughly double that of CSUs, but their spending per student grew at roughly twice the rate.
The above are some examples of the inaccurate statements in the OFA tax note for HB5300. In this age of misinformation, misinformation, opinions presented as fact, facts twisted and twisted to suit the needs of the person or organization spewing them out, it is disheartening to see a government agency that is supposed to be non-partisan and unbiased endorse the bias that is so evident in this document.
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late United States Senator from New York, said, “You have the right to have your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.
Stephen Adair is a professor of sociology at Central Connecticut State University. Lois Aimé is the Director of Educational Technology at Norwalk Community College.