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Open letter to Mark Ojakian

January 27, 2019

Mr. President,

What is the best way (“Conn. colleges to weigh new tuition options,” The News-Times, Jan. 18th) to treat the perennial patient Connecticut’s institutions of “higher learning” have become? How do we stem the constant bleeding, bloating, bilking that are both a cause and consequence of frequent trips to the E.R — i.e.,Hartford? When do we say, “You have cried wolf” too many times? Enough, already.

Since your original proposal was shot down by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges last spring, any remedial therapies are on hold until 2023 when “Consolidate Lite” takes effect. So, what can be done now? Antidotes prescribed in the past — hikes in tuition/ enrollment/state aid, assorted “freebies,” sophomoric incentives — are mere band-aids because they adhere to the same worthless paradigm.

What’s needed, desperately needed, is decluttering. Cleaning house.

Getting rid of the stuff that’s a drag. A drain. No longer “sparks joy.”

What is needed, Mr. President, is triage. Designating the terminally ill — those (branches, departments, campuses) least likely to recover — for the scrapheap.

Mr. President, you might look to the nation’s failed (and failing) department stores for inspiration. Once iconic names are either closing — J.C. Penney, K-Mart, Toys R Us, Sears — or downsizing (Macy’s, Gap) like nobody’s business. They tried coupons, cheap chic, blow-out sales, “points” — gimmicks that roughly correspond to the bag o’ tricks schools across the country employ. And failed.

In addition to shuttering the aforementioned hanging-on-by-a-thread entities why not consider the following:

Sell valuable real estate presently hidden under redundant buildings, lackluster campuses, low-enrollment branches. Repurpose or rent what is salvageable.

Designate community colleges as non-academic, certificate programs only.

Students should graduate in four years from a four-year college. Not in a “timely way.” Fifth-year tuition (and so on) would increase.

Ditch open enrollment, “curve” grading, support/tutoring/writing centers, “safe” spaces, 3rd/4th/5th chances.

Tuition “models” should be based on need, student’s scholastic record, placement exams (if any), perceived “promise.” Service in the armed forces could be considered.

Hire and retain dedicated faculty. Hiring/firing/orientating/evaluating costs more than money.

Thin the top! Deans, “heads,” chairs, counselors, advisers, supervisors, administrators, “associates,” “assistants,” “interims,” directors, to name just a few.

Frances Pulle

Bethel

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