Connecticut Ranks 33rd in College Funding, Tuition, Burden; Grade: D

The Student Impact Project, an initiative of the youth advocacy group Young Invincibles, tracked trends in higher education finance in states across the country, and graded each state based on tuition levels, state funding per student, state aid to students, the financial burden to families and higher education spending as a portion of the total state budget.  Connecticut's report card grade:  D. In state-by-state reports published this week and reported by US News & World Report, the group found that on average, tuition at four-year public colleges and universities increased 37 percent between 2007 and 2013, which is three times the rate of inflation.  The data indicated that 47 states spend less per student today than they did before the Great

Connecticut ranks 33rd among the nation’s 50 states in support for higher education.  Overall, just four states – Wyoming, New York, Alaska and Oklahoma – received a total grade equivalent to an A, while 10 got a B, 13 got a C, 12 got a D and 11 received an F, US News reported.

Overall, the state’s average in the five categories was 63 percent, which placed it ahead of only 16 states, including New Hampshire, which placed last, and Vermont, Colorado, Michigan and Oregon.  Connecticut received an F in the “aid for students” category, D in “state appropriation average” and “tuition” categories, C- in “Higher Ed as a Priority,” and the state's highest grade, C+, in “Burden on Families Average.”

New Hampshire, which at a 17 percent overall grade scored lowest in the country, spends the least amount of money per student than any other state ($1,708), and has cut the budget almost in half since the recession, according to the report. New Hampshire also provides no state aid to students, and spends 2 percent of its overall budget on higher education.  In Connecticut, the report indicated, that figure is 11 percent.

A report issuedCT report card last month by the General Accounting Office in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Senate found “persistent state budget constraints have limited funding for public colleges” across the country. The result, according to the GAO report: “Students and their families are now bearing the cost of college as a larger portion of their total family budgets.”

A report by Connecticut’s Office of Higher Education in March 2014 found that for the 2013-14 academic year, “UConn’s increase of 5.8 percent for in-state commuting students compares to a national average of 3.7 percent for state flagship institutions. CSCU’s increase of 5.4 percent for in-state commuting students attending its State Universities compares to a national average of 4.1 percent for similar types of institutions; the Community Colleges’ increase of 5.5 percent for in-state commuting students compares to a national average of 4.5 percent for like institutions.”

The Connecticut report also noted that “from 2009 to 2014, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates have increased 24.7 percent at the Connecticut State Universities, 26.9 percent at the Community Colleges, and 28.7 percent at UConn.”  Last fall, Connecticut’s largest public college system (CSCU) said it will need an 11 percent increase in its base-level state funding for the next fiscal year if they are to keep  an anticipated tuition-and-fee hike to 2 percent.  If additional state funding is not provided, steeper tuition hikes are possible.GAO report

From fiscal years 2003 through 2012, the GAO report outlined, state funding for all public colleges decreased, while tuition rose. Specifically, state funding decreased by 12 percent overall while median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges. Tuition revenue for public colleges increased from 17 percent to 25 percent, surpassing state funding by fiscal year 2012 (see chart below).

In their report, “State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability,” GAO identified several potential approaches that the federal government could use to expand incentives to states to improve affordability, such as creating new grants, providing more consumer information on affordability, or changing federal student aid programs. “Each of these approaches may have advantages and challenges, including cost implications for the federal government and consequences for students,” the report noted.

The report also indicates that GAO tuition state support“state grant aid directly affects students in that it can reduce their out-of-pocket expenses for college… state grant aid, both merit- and need-based, has positive effects on enrollment.”  The results of one program, in Washington State, cited by GAO “suggests that receiving the aid increased a student’s probability of enrolling in college by nearly 14 to 19 percentage points.”

Footnote to the story: to underscore the data, US News is running a video news story broadcast on FOX Connecticut, reporting on possible tuition increases at the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities.  The story, which is not referenced by date, was aired two years ago.



Reductions in Financial Aid Would Harm CT Students in Independent Colleges

Leaders of the state’s independent colleges and universities are expressing concern about the impact on their students of proposed plans that would merge the state’s three financial aid programs into one and substantially reduce funding over the next four years. The proposal would restrict both the amount of funds that financial aid directors may award needy Connecticut students and to whom they may award the funds, points out Judith Greiman, president of Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges.  Because the revamped system would no longer considering the cost of attendance, students at private colleges would be disproportionately impacted.

The plan is part of Gov. Malloy’s budget proposal is now being considered by the legislature.  It consolidates the longstanding financial aid programs into a single Governor’s Scholarship Program.  University of Hartford President Walter Harrison said the plan “will begin, brick by brick, to dismantle the strong array of independent colleges and universities” in Connecticut.

“While we understand the difficult budget issues that continue to impact state services, we must point out that the three primary state-funded financial aid programs, CICS, CAPCS and Capitol Scholars, have been substantially cut in the past two budgets and in the FY 13 rescission,” Greiman told the legislature. “This comes at a time of historically high student need. Cutting need-based grant aid any further will only hurt Connecticut’s students and families.”

Chart1The proposal also shifts funding from the two need-based aid programs to a program that determines financial aid based on need and merit.  In addition, for the first time it would reduce the amount of grant funds available to students by using some of the money to pay for state agency administrative costs.

Discussing the students helped by the state grants, Martha Shouldis, President of St. Vincent’s College in Bridgeport, told the legislature’s Higher Education committee that almost one-half of nursing graduates in the state, for example, are educated at private colleges.   She pointed out that students are “not only educated here but have a record of gaining employment here in Connecticut – they are an important part of the state health care labor pool now and in the future.”

CCIC has highlighted the role of the 16 independent institutions on Connecticut.  The schools:

  • Enroll 31% of all college students statewide including 45% of four-year minority students.
  • Award 44% of all degrees granted in Connecticut in 2010-11, including 44% of all Bachelor’s, 64% of all Master’s and 58.5% of all Doctoral and 57% of all Professional degrees.
  • Award 57% of all degrees received by minority students (four-year and above).
  • Award 53-72% of four-year and above degrees given in key economic development cluster areas.
  • Provided almost $65 million annually in need-based institutional financial aid to Connecticut undergraduates in 2010-11.map_2012

The CCIC institutions include Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut College, Fairfield University, Goodwin College, Mitchell College, Quinnipiac University, Rensselaer at Hartford, Sacred Heart University, St. Vincent’s College, Trinity College, University of Bridgeport, University of New Haven, University of Hartford, University of Saint Joseph, Wesleyan University and Yale University.