Sen. Boucher Statement Regarding the Board of Regents

March 21, 2013

Hartford, CT – Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) released the following statement today re: the Board of Regents of Higher Education decision to approve tuition and fee increases on students attending state universities and community colleges. And proposed bill HB 6648, allowing the Board of Regents to appoint its own leader.

“I’m extremely disappointed that Board of Regents would approve a nearly 11% increase in tuition and fees on our public higher education students. Many of these college students are working two jobs in order to afford the current cost of a college education. These new increases will be a huge burden for them.”

“State funding for these 17 public community colleges and state universities has declined 15.3 percent ($49.4 million) over the past two school years, while tuition increased by 9 percent. I find it unconscionable how can we ask these hardworking students and parents to pay even more during one of the most challenging economic periods since the Great Depression.”

“It should be noted that during this same difficult economic period, the state has spent more than 7% in 2010-2011 and is expected to spend nearly 10% over the next two years. The more prudent policy for the state to pursue would be to reassess its priorities and determine if spending more than $109 million a year on programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit is wise. We should be considering whether the money would be better invested in training our future workforce. Connecticut is losing its 18-30 year olds at the fastest rate of any state in the country.

“Meantime, in an effort to improve the process of how the President of the Board of Regents is chosen, the Higher Education Committee of which I am ranking member has passed a bill HB 6648: AN ACT CONCERNING THE BOARD OF REGENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION that would permit the Board of Regents for Higher Education to appoint its own president, who shall serve at the pleasure of the board.”

“Current state law promoted and passed by the current Governor gives him the authority to hire or fire the president at any time. A power no previous governor has ever had. This Governor also proposed and passed a law that made the term of any President of the Board of Regents the same as that of the governor. This process is perceived as very political and works to reduce the interest and the number of new applicants.”

“As we are currently experiencing, the unintended consequences of this change in policy has made the recruitment for a new president very difficult. The first president hired was forced to resign due to excessive compensation issues. Candidates for this office rightfully perceive that they are taking a big risk. If they assume the position as President of the Board of Regents and the governor no longer holds his office, any new President of the Board of Regents would be putting their position in jeopardy even if they were performing their duties in an exemplary fashion.”

“As the administration stated last year, there are some lessons to be learned from some of the mistakes that were made by individuals in the regents system. The resolution that our committee passed unanimously would allow that system as it was constructed in the legislature to continue to function in a less political manner by having the Board of Trustees recruit and oversee the presidency and better reflects best practices in good governance.”

Senator Boucher is the ranking member on the Higher Education Committee.