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Mark E. Ojakian, whose five years as president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system is best known for a controversial but ultimately successful push to merge the state's 12 community colleges, is retiring, the system announced Wednesday.

The system that Ojakian leads was formed from a contentious combination of the state's four-year regional universities and its community college system that preceded him. He brought more stable leadership to a system that had previously burned through several leaders, and focused on improving outcomes for minority students and providing a more solid financial base.

But the plan to merge the community colleges was rejected once by a regional accreditor and drew significant faculty opposition, including questions about the purported financial savings. But the plan remains on track despite the pandemic, and Ojakian said in the news release announcing his retirement that it "will ultimately improve student success and equity measures while putting the community college on firm fiscal footing."