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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Three Rivers students to protest cutbacks at state’s newly consolidated community colleges

    Norwich ― Some students, faculty and staff at Three Rivers Campus of Connecticut State Community College are frustrated by the curtailment of services at the school that they say is the result of state government’s consolidation of the 12 community colleges.

    The consolidation, finalized last year, has come amid a $140 million shortfall in funding for state colleges and universities, including the community colleges.

    Students plan to picket outside Three Rivers’ cafeteria from 11 a.m. to noon Monday to call attention to the situation. The event is being organized by the group Three Rivers United Environmentalists, or TRUE, and has the support of labor unions representing community college faculty and staff.

    Professor Diba Khan-Bureau, coordinator of Three Rivers’ environmental engineering technology program, has been involved in organizing the upcoming protest.

    “We have been trying to get the governor to provide funding for community colleges so there will be no layoffs and so students can have the services they need,” Khan-Bureau said Friday in a phone interview. “It just isn’t fair what’s happened to them.”

    Khan-Bureau said the hours of the cafeteria, the tutoring center and the library have been reduced, with the library closed on Friday afternoons and weekends.

    She said students who work at the school have had their hours cut from 20 to 10 per week, forcing them to find additional part-time jobs. And, she said, Three Rivers has been unable to hire the full-time faculty it needs.

    “It’s just really sad what has happened,” she said.

    Khan-Bureau, who has been at Three Rivers for 23 years, said the consolidation of the state’s community colleges ― a move that was supposed to save the state money ― has only increased costs.

    In a Budget Deficit Mitigation Plan presented in November to the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, the Connecticut State Community College leadership forecast budget shortfalls of $33.6 million in the current fiscal year and $91.3 million in fiscal 2025. The plan proposed cutting the deficit of nearly $124.9 million to $41.3 million.

    The plan calls for a 5% increase in tuition and fees, hiking the total for a full-time student to $5,218.

    Khan-Bureau and others made the case for greater funding for community colleges during a public hearing in February before the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee. In written testimony, she lambasted Gov. Ned Lamont and “legislators who have stood by knowing the consolidation was a farce,” saying students would bear the brunt of further budget cuts.

    “With no disrespect intended, a millionaire governor has no idea of the difficulties of the community college first-generation and non-traditional students to get an education and work and be a parent or take care of a parent or sibling,” she wrote. “He will say he knows but he doesn’t. Growing up with a silver spoon in his mouth he has no concept of what these community college students go through to get an education.”

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

    Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misquoted Khan-Bureau regarding the impact of budget cutbacks on student services at Three Rivers.

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