Supporting College Completion Plan Legislation

March 2, 2018

I stand in support of “Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish” College Completion Plan - legislation proposed to help students complete their college careers at community colleges and state universities. The proposal is part of our Democratic Values Agenda for the 2018 legislative session.

 House Bill 5371 would give state aid to qualified Connecticut students thereby improving college graduation rates and preparing our state workforce for the thousands of new jobs needed in the near future.

I have heard the concerns from many families with college-bound students about the rising tuition costs and their struggle to support them in fulfilling their college goals. This legislation would be a tremendous incentive to the many students who want to earn a degree, but can’t afford tuition. I am pleased to stand in support.”

If approved, the scholarship would take effect in the fall of 2019, and Connecticut would become one of several states in America – following recent efforts in New York, Rhode Island, and others – to provide a state-sponsored higher education scholarship for qualified students.

Similar to New York State’s “Excelsior Scholarship Program” and Rhode Island’s “RI Promise,” Connecticut’s ‘Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish’ college scholarship program is a so-called “last dollar” program which does not supplant existing institutional awards or other aid, it simply fills in the missing funding gaps.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, from 2009-2015, 74% of Connecticut students completed their four-year public college degree within six years (the fifth-best completion rate in the country), but only 34% of students completed their 2-year community college degree within six years – placing Connecticut 33rd out of 50 states.

The ‘Free 2 Start/Free 2 Finish’ program has two main components:

Free 2 Start

  • State aid for tuition and required fees for the first two academic years at a regional community-technical college
  • Must be a full-time undergraduate student (30 or more semester credit hours in an academic year) in good academic standing
  • Must meet specific annual family income guidelines (i.e. $48,060 for a family of two, $60,480 for a family of three, $72,900 for a family of four)
  • Must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and accept all financial aid (including scholarships, grants, waivers and institutional aid)
  • State provides a minimum benefit of $1,000 per year.

Free 2 Finish

  • State aid for tuition and required fees to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a Connecticut public university
  • Eligible students must have graduated from a Connecticut high school
  • Like Free 2 Start, must be a full-time undergraduate student in good academic standing
  • Like Free 2 Start, must meet specific annual family income guidelines
  • Like Free 2 Start, must complete the FAFSA form and accept all financial aid
  • Like Free 2 Start, state provides a minimum benefit of $1,000 per year
  • Students must participate in a volunteer-based mentorship and counseling program