Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-24

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING PROGRAM APPROVAL FOR INDEPENDENT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Vote Date:

2/25/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/18/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To add to Section 10a-34 of the general statutes a new section exempting new and revised academic programs proposed by independent institutions of higher education from approval by the Office of Higher Education. Exempting these institutions from approval by the Office of Higher Education will bring Connecticut in line with the approval processes of the majority of other states in the country and with all public and the four already exempt private institutions within the State of Connecticut.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Jane A. Ciarleglio, Executive Director, Office of Higher Education: The Office of Higher Education is in opposition to the bill, as they believe that centralized program approval is essential to Connecticut institutions and students. Leaving program approval through the Office of Higher Education intact ensures a “minimum educational quality”. Other regulatory entities, such as the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, rely on approval through the Office of Higher Education before they can provide certifications of their own. Replacing this approval with regional accreditation, as the bill suggests, regulates quality only at the institutional level, and not on the basis of individual programs or courses. Ms. Ciarleglio also points to a recent streamlining of processes, meaning new program proposals are reviewed within forty-five days, which she believes is not overly burdensome given the extra protections it affords to students.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Kenneth S. Siegel, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. submitted testimony in support of S.B. 24. Attorney Siegel's testimony stated that “One of the challenges in Connecticut has long been the ability of our independent institutions of higher education to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of the business industry in this state.” Attorney Siegel said that the work done by Connecticut's colleges and universities is critical for preparing students for the business community. He indicated that state oversight creates an unnecessarily lengthy process to create new programs to be offered, and stifles the independent college's capacity to be nimble, flexible, and responsive to the changing needs of Connecticut students.

Charles V. Firlotte, President & Chief Executive Officer, Aquarian Water Company submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24. Mr. Firlotte's testimony indicated that the state regulations for program review create an “exceedingly long and cumbersome process.” He believes that if these institutions are “hamstrung by excessive regulations governing program innovation”, Connecticut residents and businesses will suffer. Mr. Firlotte believes that the adoption of S.B. 24 would result in increasing new jobs and creating a stronger economy to Connecticut.

State Representative J. Brendan Sharkey, 88th Assembly District, Speaker of the House submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, stating that it would help independent institutions “develop academic programs that are responsive to the marketplace”. Speaker Sharkey referred to the work of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee and the Governor's effort to “streamline the program approval process” through Public Act 13-118, and indicated that despite this, Connecticut still has one of the most burdensome independent institution regulations in the United States. Speaker Sharkey reasons that the implementation of S.B. 24 would result in academic programs that are better suited to changing business needs.

Daniel J. McCarthy, President and Chief Executive Officer, Frontier Communications submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, and believes that university and college program development and implementation is critical to the development of the workforce. He claims that the current regulations placed on private universities and colleges “means that it can take months – even years in some cases – for new programs to finally be offered”. He thinks that the length of time this review process takes negatively impacts the business sector as it does not allow employees to be as up to date as possible.

Stephen H. Kaplan, Ph.D., President, University of New Haven submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24. President Kaplan said that he appreciated the “expedited review timelines by CT OHE.” He shared that preparation for state review still consumes considerable time and resources within independent institutions. He indicated that the required state approval process does not exist for independent higher education in most other states, and that this process “adds costs and delays to curriculum innovation and reform.” Furthermore, these increased costs and reviews result in the diminishing of competitive opportunity for private institutions to attract students from other states.

Senator Martin M. Looney, 11th Senatorial District, President Pro Tempore submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24. Senator Looney echoed concerns that the current process for private institutions to implement new programs remains time consuming and burdensome on the part of the institutions.

Rupendra Paliwal, Ph.D., Acting Provost for Academic Affairs, Sacred Heart University submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, expressing the same concerns, that the process in place, which requires program review once for licensure and once for accreditation, is burdensome. Dr. Paliwal writes that the extra layer of scrutiny in place on private institutions program reviews gives the appearance that Connecticut shows a bias towards public institutions and does not help Connecticut citizens access all types of higher education fairly.

Jennifer Herz, Assistant Counsel, CBIA submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, as it would help make high quality education opportunities more accessible for Connecticut residents. The adoption of S.B. 24 would allow for these institutions of higher learning would be able to more efficiently implement programs were this double program review restriction removed.

Gary Minor - Senior Director, College Relations, Goodwin College submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, asserting that the additional program review is redundant, inefficient, and unnecessary as well, since Goodwin has many program reviews already in place and many of their programs have to be approved by national agencies, commissions, bureaus and councils.

Patrick McGloin, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy, Metro-Hartford Alliance submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, as it would allow independent colleges to be more responsive to the needs of the business community. Additionally, the current process “presents an un-level playing field that disadvantages the independent schools, their students, and the business community.” Metro-Hartford Alliance believes that the adoption of S.B. 24 would be beneficial to the business community.

Stephen Healey, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, University of Bridgeport submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, believing it would improve the pace of program development, as well as make the program approval process more fair and cost effective. Dr. Healey noted that delaying program approval by just a month or two might result in a full academic year lost. Students bear the most to lose through the current system, which has the cost burden shifted on them to fund the program review.

Sean P. O'Connell, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs, Albertus Magnus College submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, stating that all Albertus Magnus College program reviews have passed without substantive changes, while having to bear the additional costs in order to prepare these reports. Dr. O'Connell said that having this program review in place “adds an unnecessary bureaucratic layer that does not contribute to the quality of the academic programs”. He believes that having this program review in place only serves to increase school costs and misuse staff time without contributing to improving any academic aspect of the institution.

Walter Harrison, President, University of Hartford, Stephen Healey, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Bridgeport, and Bruce Berdanier, Ph.D., PE, LS, FASCE, Fairfield University, testified as a panel in addition to submitting written testimony in support of S.B. 24. They provided a brief history of what happened to similar legislation brought before the Connecticut Legislature last year. President Harrison indicated that other states are able to operate without imposing these burdensome restrictions on their private institutions, and that Connecticut has the harshest program review policies in place, with the exception of New York.

Jennifer Widness, President, Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges testified and submitted written testimony in support of S.B. 24, saying that despite improvements, the program review process still “consumes considerable time and resources”. This adds unnecessary costs and delays to curriculum reform, which results in diminished opportunity for these institutions to respond to student demand and employer's needs.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

See response from agency.

Reported by: Kyle Donovan, Assistant Clerk

Date: February 29, 2016