March 13, 2019

Senator Haskell Endorses Advance of Debt-Free College Tuition Legislation

HARTFORD, CT – This week, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) moved legislation forward that would expand access to higher education by making community college affordable. On Tuesday, the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee gave a joint favorable report to Committee Bill No. 273, “An Act Concerning Debt-Free College.” This is a crucial step as the bill moves closer to becoming a law.

“As Chair of the Higher Education and Advancement Committee, I am thrilled that we were able to move3 this bill through our committee,” said Sen. Haskell. “College debt is an epidemic that’s holding the next generation of workers, taxpayers and homeowners back. By creating a pathway toward debt-free community college, we create a ladder of opportunity for hard-working families to gain the skills required of a 21st century work force. Our committee heard the business community loudly and clearly when they told us 75 percent of jobs will require a degree beyond a high school diploma by 2025. This bill moves toward the goal of preparing every student for a 21st century workforce.”

Committee Bill No. 273 is a roadmap to debt-free community college. Its language would allow high school graduates in regional community-technical colleges the ability to graduate without accruing debt. Students are also asked to submit the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, form – increased FAFSA participation increases federal support for the state at large. Students would be required to maintain a GPA of at least 2.5, accept all available financial aid and come from households with income of roughly $70,000 or less.

Connecticut State Colleges & Universities President Mark Ojakian said in submitted testimony that nearly 60 percent of community college students already have their tuition, fees and book costs covered by federal funding, or they receive financial aid covering their tuition and fees. This legislation fills that gap, giving more students an opportunity to graduate debt-free

Student loan debt in the United States adds up to more than $1.5 trillion in total, according to testimony submitted by Senate Democrats. Connecticut’s status as having the third-most average student loan debt in the nation underscores the need to pass this bill, which bars so many from graduating college without financial strain.

“In order for Connecticut to be a favorable option for [new graduates], it is critical that we as a state invest in our future,” said ten Senate Democrats who submitted testimony. “A fundamental pillar of our future is the young people growing up in Connecticut and the young people that may consider moving to Connecticut. We need this group to stay and grow Connecticut. Our businesses, our economy and our prosperity depend on it.”