HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he plans to introduce legislation during the 2021 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly with the goal of increasing postsecondary enrollment and success across Connecticut, particularly among first-generation, low-income, and minority students.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, postsecondary enrollment has decreased across Connecticut and the country as a whole. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that Connecticut experienced a 3.5 percentage point decline in college enrollment from 2019 levels, which ranks 23rd of the 50 states in terms of the largest percentage point decline. Similarly, FAFSA completion among high school seniors is down 8 percent compared to this time last year.
“Increasing postsecondary enrollment and success, particularly among first-generation, low-income, and minority students, is good for students and our state’s economy,” Governor Lamont said. “We must prioritize postsecondary enrollment so that our students are earning degrees and credentials that get them into the workforce and contributing to Connecticut’s economy. These students represent our future, and the stakes are too high if we do not act now to mitigate these losses even further.”
Governor Lamont’s proposal will include the following key initiatives focused on increasing postsecondary enrollment across Connecticut, particularly among first-generation, low-income, and minority students:
- Requiring completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, a similar state form for students who are undocumented, or a waiver in order for students to graduate from high school in Connecticut;
- Louisiana instituted a similar completion requirement and saw a 25 percent increase in FAFSA completion across the state in that same year.
- In the 2018-2019 academic year, high school graduates eligible for Pell funding left behind almost $2.6B in federal aid by not filling out the FAFSA.
- Congress recently passed legislation to dramatically simplify the FAFSA in future years.
- Creating an auto-admission program at the four campuses of the Connecticut State Universities to increase access to college for academically prepared high school students by simplifying the application process and removing application fees;
- Increasing access to Advanced Placement, dual credit, early college, and other high-quality courses by requiring that districts not prohibit students from taking such courses based solely on prior academic performance, and that districts automatically enroll students in advanced coursework if a student is academically prepared; and
- Creating an expanded transit pass program, similar to the UPass program used by students at the state’s public colleges and universities, that is open additional institutions including the state’s private universities and other training providers.
“The need for our students to continue their education after high school is critical,” Connecticut Education Deputy Commissioner Desi Nesmith said. “Given the increasing value of a postsecondary credential and that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant reductions in postsecondary enrollment, it is vital that our students take the first step to college by completing the FAFSA and determining whether they are eligible for Pell grants, the Roberta Willis Scholarship, or other aid. The importance of FAFSA completion is why I supported Governor Lamont’s call for a FAFSA challenge, so that high schools would compete to increase their FAFSA completion rates this year. Further, the FAFSA will be dramatically simplified in the near future, making it even easier for students to complete.”
“All too often, eligible students don’t believe they qualify for funding, so they skip the FAFSA and end up unnecessarily paying hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket,” Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Interim President Dr. Jane Gates said. “Governor Lamont’s proposal is a simple change that could make a big difference in the lives of our students. Likewise, we know that there are many smart, talented, hardworking students – most of whom would be the first in their family to go to college – who never get that far because we put too many procedural and bureaucratic barriers in their way. The streamlined admissions process for Connecticut high school students will be easy to navigate and will improve opportunities for deserving students.”
The University of Connecticut has also partnered with the Governor’s Workforce Council and Governor Lamont’s office to create a program that will improve access and enrollment of first-generation, low-income, and minority students. Through this program, called the UConn Alliance Pathway, participating Alliance Schools will identify and share the names of students who are in the top 10 percent of their high school class, or who are among the top 10 percent of free or reduced lunch recipients in their high school class, with UConn annually. UConn will then facilitate targeted support for these students in the form of in-person and virtual engagement. This engagement will include workshops to assist with both applications and FAFSA completion. An application fee waiver will be granted to any student identified by participating Alliance Schools.
“The Alliance Pathway will greatly enhance our ability to identify, recruit and support these very talented and deserving students from across the state of Connecticut,” UConn President Dr. Thomas Katsouleas said. “We’re very excited for this initiative and to be part of the workforce development efforts under way statewide.”
“One of the charges that Governor Lamont gave to the Governor’s Workforce Council and the Office of Workforce Strategy was to improve access and equity in high-quality postsecondary education,” Office of Workforce Strategy Executive Director Dr. Kelli Vallieres said. “Our state’s students represent the future of Connecticut, and the price is too high if we don’t support them in entering a meaningful postsecondary education and developing the skills and credentials they need to contribute to Connecticut’s economy.”
The proposals highlighted above will be included as part of the governor’s workforce and education legislation that will be submitted to the General Assembly in February. Additional initiatives in the governor’s bill on workforce and education include:
- Coordinating workforce development policies and programs across Connecticut
- Codifying the Office of Workforce Strategy within the Department of Economic and Community Development for administrative purposes only
- Creating more short-term workforce training programs in high-demand industries across the state
- Launching CareerConneCT, which will expand existing high-performing workforce training programs and create new programs that are aligned to the workforce needs of in-demand industries across the state
- Increasing the amount of educational and workforce data that is captured across the state so that students, job seekers, and policy makers can make more data-driven decisions
- Launching a registry that will contain all secondary and postsecondary credentials offered in Connecticut
- Increasing the number of fields captured in wage records to include more information on demographics, educational attainment, occupation, and other key areas
One of Governor Lamont’s priorities since entering office has been focused on creating a nation-leading workforce that is underpinned by a strong educational system. In 2019, Governor Lamont created the Governor’s Workforce Council, which released its strategic plan on workforce development for the state in October 2020. The strategic plan outlines major initiatives focused on Connecticut’s educational system that are currently underway.
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