Is Debt-Free Community College Really Debt-Free? Yes!

June 24, 2019

I've received more inquiries from my constituents on "debt-free community college" than any other subject. Below is a summary of the program from the Office of Legislative Research.

Debt-Free Community College
A new law requires the Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) to establish a debt-free community college program for certain Connecticut high school graduates who enroll as first-time, full-time students. The program must provide these students with fall and spring semester awards that (1) cover the unpaid portion of the tuition and required fees established by BOR (i.e., tuition and fee costs, minus scholarships, grants, and federal, state, and institutional aid awarded to the student) or (2) provide a minimum $250 grant, whichever is greater.

Awards under this program apply to the first 72 credit hours earned by a student in the first 36 months of community college enrollment in a program leading to a degree or certificate. BOR must make awards to qualifying students beginning with the fall 2020 semester, within available appropriations (HB 7424, § 362, as amended by House “A” and “B,” effective July 1, 2019). (NOTE: The "debt-free" community college program does not begin until the fall semester of 2020). (FURTHER NOTE: "Debt free" is a legislative exaggeration, if you're offered a loan as a result of your FAFSA application, you must borrow it to qualify for the state to waive the remaining unpaid portion of your tuition and required fees, or to qualify for the $250 if the loan covers the remaining tuition and required fees.)

For more details, the program is authorized in Section 362 (near the end) of the biennium state budget. Read the budget here.