Marilyn Moore


Marilyn Moore



March 2, 2023


Today, one of Senate Democrats’ priority bills to address access and affordability of higher education, as well as to keep young Connecticut graduates living and working in Connecticut, will receive a public hearing in the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.

“Senate Bill 8 seeks to address one of the biggest issues with higher education in our state: its financial costs,” said State Senator Derek Slap (D-West Hartford), Senate Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. “Every step that this bill takes, from expanding the eligibility pool for the PACT program to increasing investment in the Roberta B. Willis Scholarship Program and establishing new interest rate reductions for in-demand industries, is designed to lessen the burden of student loans and financial cost. Additionally, such moves also support our state’s workforce and economy, especially in that reduced interest rates will help support the state’s pipelines supporting industries looking for more workers.”

“We need to relinquish the financial fear placed upon our youth when they are thinking about college,” said Sen. Moore. “Affordable Higher Education eliminates the racial inequities amongst students in our state. Every student deserves to achieve a higher education and should not be turned away because of their lack of finances. Extending the PACT program expands access to a number of individuals that will be able to move forward; getting an education creates equity, and increased opportunities in the workforce.”

Senate Bill 8, “An Act Concerning Higher Education Affordability and Graduate Retention,” seeks to:

  • Extend the state’s PACT debt-free community college program to returning students
  • Increase the amount of minimum award grants through the PACT program from $250 to $1,000 for full-time students and from $150 to $600 for part-time students
  • Reallocate American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the Roberta B. Willis Scholarship Program, helping students with the cost of education
  • Require the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority to establish a Student Loan Subsidy Program to reduce the interest rates on loans provided to individuals in certain high-demand professions
  • Provide a tax deduction to state residents paying interest on student loans during the taxable year

Currently, the PACT program provides up to three years of debt-free community college to first-time Connecticut high school graduates seeking higher education. This bill would extend that offering to students who are not first-time students, expanding access to a number of workers and residents who may have started but not finished previous attempts at higher education. Additionally, the additional award grant funding through the program would provide significant financial support and flexibility for students, who even after expenses may face other costs such as needing school supplies and books for coursework.

While community college costs are lower than that of four-year colleges and universities, they still can serve as a financial challenge to those seeking to continue their education. According to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, a student taking 12 or more credits at a community college will face costs that could exceed $2,350.

Further, the bill would reallocate funds to support the Roberta B. Willis Scholarship Program. The program provides scholarships to students meeting certain academic standards, attending college in Connecticut and whose expected family contributions will be below the Office of Higher Education’s limit of $10,999; this increased investment will support a number of additional students with costs as they pursue higher education.

The bill would introduce a Student Loan Subsidy Program through CHESLA, where the Chief Workforce Officer would subsidize interest rates on authority loans to individuals in high-demand positions. These professions would be named no later than September 2023; it’s likely that this would be used to encourage students to pursue fields in high demand for employers, including manufacturing and health care, and would incentivize those students to remain in Connecticut and pursue in-state employment upon graduation. Finally, the bill would provide a tax deduction to state residents who paid interest on their student loans, helping cut down on loan interest appreciation that can hold residents back financially even as they make regular payments.