HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Faculty and staff at community colleges are urging state leaders to invest instead of making cuts.

Higher education has seen budget cuts, and with the pandemic, the concern is there could be more.

A rally was held on Thursday outside the Board of Regents and consisted mostly of faculty and staff who are worried about more budget cuts to community colleges.

“Small class sizes, exceptional faculty, personal mentorship, research experience, university assistantships, and job opportunities are the things that set the CSU’s apart,” said Christina Barmon, a professor at Central Connecticut State University.

Faculty and staff and their unions are telling state lawmakers to increase taxes on the wealthy and stop cutting the budget.

“While 73 percent of white high school graduates enroll in college right after high school, that number drops to just 54 percent for black graduates,” said Democratic State Rep. Greg Haddad.

“If college isn’t affordable, then I can’t go,” said CCSU student Amara Osorio.

Osorio said it’s a struggle paying for college, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I lost my job at the school at the beginning of this pandemic, so it’s really difficult,” Osorio said.

This comes on the heels of a major reorganization plan for all the community colleges to consolidate into one accredited university.

“There was not one faculty position lost because of consolidation,” said Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges & Universities.

However, Ojakian said there will be other changes, including fewer administrators, some doing more than one job.

Ojakian said the restructuring plan is needed to keep all campuses open.

“Just cutting alone is not going to get us to where we are going to be sustainable, and I refuse at this point in time to recommend tuition increases,” Ojakian said. “We are not going to balance our budget on the hardworking students and their families.”

Ninety-five percent of students at community colleges are from Connecticut.

Ojakian said these colleges will be important in the state’s economic recovery.

Copyright 2020 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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