Attorney General: Honorable Valerie F. Lewis, Department of Higher Education, 2000-011 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

March 8, 2000

Honorable Valerie F. Lewis
Interim Commissioner
Department of Higher Education
61 Woodland Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06105

Dear Commissioner Lewis:

In your communication of December 27, 1999, you state that the Board of Trustees for the Community-Technical Colleges ("Board of Trustees") had voted earlier in 1999 to change its name and the names of each of its twelve colleges by reducing "regional community-technical college(s)" to "community college" in each title. You state that the Board of Trustees' action was based upon a "yearlong public relations study."1 On behalf of the Board of Governors for Higher Education ("Board of Governors") you asked whether the approval of the Board of Governors pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-6 and/or of the General Assembly is required to effect legally these name changes.

Preliminarily, we note that "regional" has not been used in the Board of Trustees' name since 19892 nor has it ever been used in the name of any of its colleges. Also although the word "technical" was dropped from each college's name, it was retained on the board's title, as it is statutorily required to be.3 10a-71. Thus, your question has become whether the Board of Trustees may change the name of each of its twelve colleges from "...Community-Techncial College" to "...Community College." In our opinion, it may.

As to whether the Board of Governors must approve a name change, you cite Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-6(a)(7). That section does not mention naming public colleges or universities but rather grants the Board of Governors approval authority over mission statements of the boards of trustees of the constituent units and over role and scope statements of individual institutions under the jurisdiction of those boards. You point out that the "generic mission" of the Board of Trustees and its colleges is set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-72(b)(2) and imply that the name change constitutes or signals a deviation from this generic mission.

The legislature has effectively provided a general mission statement for the colleges in the community-technical college system through Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-80(a), which provides:

The primary responsibilities of the regional community-techncial colleges shall be (1) to provide programs of occupational, vocational, technical and technological and career education designed to provide training for immediate employment, job retraining or upgrading of skills to meet individual, community and state manpower needs; (2) to provide programs of general study including, but not limited to, remediation, general and adult education and continuing education designed to meet individual student goals; (3) to provide programs of study for college transfer representing the first two years of baccalaureate education; (4) to provide community service programs as defined in subsection (b) of this section and (5) to provide student support services including, but not limited to, admissions, counseling, testing, placement, individualized instruction and efforts to serve students with special needs.

Sec. 10a-80(a) was last amended by 27(a) of P.A. 92-126, which completed the merger of the five state technical colleges into the community college system. Sec. 27(a) of the public act added to subsection (1) the words "technical and technological" to its previously existing language. At our request, the Board of Trustees sent us a copy of its mission statement presently before the Board of Governors and informed us that it is essentially restatement of its prior mission statement, which the Board of Governors approved except that the colleges are identified by their changed names. The system's seven page mission statement clearly flows from the Board of Trustees' primary responsibilities as set out in 10a-80(a). For example, under the heading "Instructional and Student Support Services"4 the mission statement contains this passage:

Each community college is unique with regard to certain individual efforts, emphases and priorities. However, the twelve institutions provide a wide variety of high quality technical, career, general, and liberal arts and sciences courses of study that may lead to associate degrees, certificates, transfer to four-year institutions, or simply to the short-term acquisition of specific skills.

At any community college, it is possible for qualified students who wish to do so to limit their enrollment to a few courses focusing on special interests or on certain specialized job skills. However, community college associate degree programs are alike in that each includes a general education component to provide students who enroll in such programs with a broader education and experience.

The mission statement devotes a specific section to "technical education," which states in part:

Board of Trustees responds to Public Act 92-126 by providing for comprehensive educational opportunities that broaden the diversity of students in technical education by assuring statewide access to technical programs and services. The Board of Trustees embraces the principle that the residents of every area of the state deserve access to technical programs and an extensive inventory of specialized services spanning the ever-changing technological continuum and emphasizing the development of skills for current and future careers, as well as the use of state-of-the-art technology.

When the Board of Governors acts under 10a-6(a)(7), it approves or disapproves the Board of Trustees' annual mission statement in light of Chapter 185b, Part I, particularly 10a-80(a). It determines whether the Board of Trustees present operations and future plans as set forth in the mission statement are consistent not only with the Board of Trustees' statutory responsibilities but also with the Board of Governors' various statewide higher education policies and master plan provided for in other subsections of 10a-6. The Board of Governors does not have express authority, however, under 10a-6(a)(7) to require the Board of Trustees to submit to it for approval any name changes of colleges under the Board of Trustees' jurisdiction nor are we able to find that such authority is necessarily implied in 10a-6(a)(7) for the Board of Governors to perform its pertinent duties. See Nelesco Navigation v. Department of Liquor Control, 226 Conn. 418, 424 (1993).

The second inquiry is whether the name changes in question may be accomplished only by the legislature. It is beyond question that the General Assembly has generally the ultimate power to name public colleges and universities. It has done so, for example, with respect to the institutions in the Connecticut State University System; Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-87; and with respect to Charter Oak State College, Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-143; but the legislature has never undertaken to name the colleges in the community-technical college system, which has existed since 1965. It is our opinion that, in the absence of a statute actually naming the colleges under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trustees or explicitly directing the Board of Trustees to name their colleges in a particular manner, that prerogative resides with the Board of Trustees.

Sec. 10a-72(a) gives the Board of Trustees the power to "administer the regional community-technical colleges." Under 10a-72(b), the Board of Trustees, among other things, makes rules for the governance of the colleges, establishes policies, sets the missions of the various colleges, coordinates programs and services of colleges and proposes facility planning and capital expenditure priorities. In essence, the Board of Trustees governs all aspects of the colleges within its domain. In Connecticut State Employees Ass'n. v. Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut, 165 Conn. 757, 761 (1974) our Supreme Court observed that the general statutory powers of the Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-119 (now 10a-104), which are substantially similar to the Board of Trustees' 10a-72 powers, are stated "in the broadest possible terms, evidencing an obvious intent to clothe the board of trustees with sole jurisdiction over the University in all phases." A broad grant of legislative power may be interpreted to include the conferral of lesser included powers necessary to fulfill the legislative mandate. Nelesco Navigation Co. v. Department of Liquor Control, supra, 226 Conn. at 424; Daly v. DelPonte, 225 Conn. 499, 510 (1993); Bottone v. Westport, 209 Conn. 652, 670 (1989). It follows from the Board of Trustees' governance powers that "any action which is necessary for the proper maintenance and successful operation of a state university [or college] is authorized unless prohibited by statute". Waliga v. Board of Trustees of Kent State University, 22 Ohio St.3rd 55, 488 N.E. 2d 850, 852 (1986). Thus, because the General Assembly has never undertaken to name community colleges and because obviously, such colleges need names, it must be concluded that such authority resides in the Board of Trustees until the General Assembly chooses to exercise its authority.

The Board of Trustees' implicit authority under 10a-72 to name colleges within its system is fortified by its consistent practice since the Board of Trustees' creation in 1965. Our Supreme Court has held that the practical interpretation of a statute by the agency charged with its administration is a recognized aid to statutory construction; State ex rel. James v. Rapport, 136 Conn. 177, 182 (1949); and that "where a governmental agencies time-tested interpretation is 'reasonable' it should be accorded 'great weight' by the courts." New Haven v. United Illuminating Co., 168 Conn. 478, 493 (1975); see also Preston v. Department of Environmental Protection, 218 Conn. 821, 830 (1991); Anderson v. Ludgin, 175 Conn. 545, 555-556 (1978).

When the Board of Trustees became operative in 1965, two local colleges, Manchester and Norwalk, were already in existence and a third, Northwestern, was about to open.5 These three colleges became part of the community colleges system. 1965 P.A. 330, 25; Minutes of Board of Trustees' Meeting of August 25, 1965, pp. 2-3. Over the course of the next seven years nine new community colleges were established. In each case, the Board of Trustees named the college by assigning a designation descriptive of or closely associated with the college's geographical location followed by "Community College." In 1989, the legislature placed the five state technical colleges under the Board of Trustees' jurisdiction and changed the Board of Trustees' name to the Board of Trustees of the Regional Community-Technical Colleges. P.A. 89-260, 13, 14, amending 10a-71,-72. Although 10a-72 referred to those five colleges as "regional technical colleges", the Board of Trustees allowed them to remain known as "state technical colleges." Three years later the General Assembly mandated the merger of each of the five state technical colleges into the community college closest to it. P.A. 92-126, 19-28. This merger did not directly affect seven of the twelve community colleges, but the Board of Trustees changed the names of all colleges to "community-technical colleges." It also changed at that time the designating nomenclature of certain colleges. The Board of Trustees changed "Greater Hartford" to "Capital," "South Central" to "Gateway," and "Mattatuck" to "Naugatuck." In sum, the Board of Trustees has changed college names frequently over time.

Throughout the Board of Trustees' 35 year existence, the General Assembly is presumed to have been aware and to have had knowledge of existing statutes and the effect that its own action or nonaction may have on them. See Stein v. Hillebrand, 240 Conn. 35, 42-43 (1997); Windham First Taxing District v. Town of Windham, 208 Conn. 543, 554 (1988); Mack v. Saars, 150 Conn. 290, 298 (1963). Despite being aware of its overriding right in this area (see, e.g., P.A. 99-281, 1 [State Board of Education directed to recommend to the General Assembly name changes for the vocational technical schools]), the General Assembly has never taken action to name any college in the system or to negate the Board of Trustees' naming of a college or colleges.

It has been suggested that even if the Board of Trustees may select the specific designation of each college, its title must include "community-technical college" because the title of the Board of Trustees contains those words and the statute refers to the colleges by such terminology. As pointed out above, 10a-71 has always designated the Board of Trustees' official title, namely "The Board of Trustees of the Regional Community [or since 1989, "Community-Technical"] Colleges." Since the system's inception no college has ever had the generic word "regional" in its name despite the numerous allusions in Chapter 185 to the "regional community colleges" or in more recent years to the "regional community-technical colleges." See 1965 P.A. No. 330, 21; P.A. 89-260, 14-31; P.A. 92-126, 2, 23-27. Yet the General Assembly has never directed that the name of each college contain the word "regional." In other words, it has to this point not acted to override in the Board of Trustees' designation of the generic portion of each college's name in addition to the distinguishing part of the name. For the reasons stated above, the Board of Trustees has acted within its statutory authority in changing the names of the colleges within its jurisdiction.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Bernard F. McGovern, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General

RB/BFM/sad

pc: Andrew McKirdy, Interim Chancellor


1 According to Interim Chancellor Andrew McKirdy's December 30, 1999 memorandum to Rep. Brian Flaherty, on which the Board of Governors was copied, this system wide study indicated that the former names caused prospective students to confuse the colleges with the state vocational technical schools, which are secondary schools governed by the State Board of Education, and gave a restricted image of the range of the colleges' programs.

2 The General Assembly expressly named the Board of Trustees in Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-71 when it provided: "There shall be a Board of Trustees for the Community-Technical Colleges...." See P.A. 89-260, 13. Previously its name had been "Board of Trustees for the Regional Community Colleges." See 1965 P.A. No. 330, 21.

3 The Board of Trustees has informed us that only the names of the colleges were changed and that the governing entity's name will continue to be "the Board of Trustees of the Community-Technical Colleges." Minutes of Board of Trustees' Meeting of October 19, 1999, Item G-1, p. 3.

4 The pages of the mission statement are unnumbered.

5 Prior to 1965 a local board of education was empowered to maintain "post-secondary school[s] or schools of college grade" upon securing a license for a "junior college" from the State Board of Education. 1959 P.A. No. 232; 1963 P.A. No. 583. These colleges were supported by local funding and tuition payment. Id.


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