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CSCU offers free tuition for community college students

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First-time, full-time students can attend one of the state’s community colleges essentially for free beginning next fall – although funding for the initiative has yet to be determined.

CSCU community collegeThe “Pledge to Advance Connecticut” (PACT) was approved yesterday by the Board of Regents for Higher Education. It applies to all 12 of the community colleges within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, including Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport and Norwalk Community College.

To apply, prospective students must be a Connecticut resident; a full-time, first-time community college student; complete all available federal and institutional financial aid applications; and apply and register by July 15, 2020. In addition, they must have graduated from a public or private high school or have been sufficiently homeschooled.

CSCU estimates that the cost of PACT will fall in the $7 million to $15 million range, depending upon how many new students take advantage of the program. It estimates that roughly 1,250 students, representing about a 5% increase over current enrollment, will participate.

Funding for the initiative is still to be finalized. Connecticut law requires the state to identity a funding source during the 2020 legislative session.

According to PACT guidelines, “in the event that insufficient resources are made available to CSCU, the program is designed to allow for pro-rating of grants or awarding on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Meanwhile, the Board of Regents meeting was attended by dozens of faculty and staff members protesting CSCU’s “Students First” plan, which would consolidate the 12 community colleges into a single institution in 2023. CSCU President Mark Ojakian, with the support of the Regents, maintains that such a move will save up to $17 million per year.

The five unions that represent faculty and staff in the CSCU system – the 4C’s Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges, the American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, the American Association of University Professors, and SUOAF-AFSCME – issued a joint statement saying they “stand united” in opposition to the consolidation plan.

The statement maintains that Students First “will not realize the projected savings, will be disruptive for students, will have negative consequences on critical students outcomes, and will erode the value of the community colleges for students and for the state of Connecticut for years to come.”

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