Initial reaction to Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget proposal to merge all state colleges and universities into a single system has been positive. That includes trustees from both two-year and four-year systems who have no doubt wondered whether money spent on competing for a shrinking pool of students could be better spent — or even not spent at all.

OK, we admit that last notion of spending less of the taxpayers’ money may not be on the radar of most trustees or of the many vested interests in the two academic systems. That makes it all the more important for the governor and legislature to see that the taxpayers’ interests are clearly and fairly represented in this effort. Whatever legislative vehicle is used to accomplish such a merger must be required to identify the savings and efficiencies that come with it.

A merger must see that the widely varied interests and needs of post-secondary students are addressed. This has to be more than an effort to simplify the transfer of earned credits from one school to another, as nice as that sounds. The educational requirements for America’s continued competitive success in the world are as varied and changing as the value of Bitcoin. One of the concerns of a merger is the further loss of identity and voice for the vocational and technical studies that many businesses need and that many students have interest in and can afford. Already subsumed to a degree within the community college system, the chances for further erosion or even elimination under a merger must be guarded against.

There is also the danger that merging 11 entities into one will result in one giant and more powerful bureaucracy replacing the two top-heavy systems already in place. The lobbying power of such an entity could rival the days when the railroads called the shots in our citizen legislature. That devil, among others, will sure be in the details of this proposal.

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