President Daisy Cocco De Filippis and the 4C’s Union hosted Connecticut State Representative Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfiled), Chairman of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, and Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) in a forum to discuss the "Debt-free Community College in Connecticut" initiative. The forum at NVCC is part of a state-wide tour of community colleges centering around the state’s upcoming debt-free community college program.
The program at NVCC opened with a welcome from President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. The President enthusiastically thanked the delegates for their commitment to bringing hope to community college students. “This legislation is an encouraging first step in providing support and increasing access to higher education for many Connecticut students. I look forward to hearing more about the initiative as the planning process moves forward.” President De Filippis also encouraged the legislators to take into consideration the needs of both part-time and DACA students. The President concluded her remarks with a poem by Emily Dickinson, Hope is the Thing with Feathers.
State Representative Ron Napoli (D-Waterbury) introduced the speakers. Representative Haddad explained that “The General Assembly and the Governor have agreed to provide enough scholarship funding to every first-time Connecticut student at a Community College to reduce out-of-pocket costs to zero. Meeting this goal will put a college degree or work-skill certificate within reach for every student. And it will increase the financial stability of our community college system while helping to meet Connecticut employers' workforce needs. ”Haddad noted, “One critical step remains. The legislation identifies a funding source that, if approved, would grow to be substantial enough to fully fund the program. The Governor is currently vetting that solution and the legislature must act on his recommendation to fulfill the promise made in last year's bill.”
Senator Will Haskell, took the podium to express commitment to and confidence in community college students. “We know students are the best investment we can make. We are dedicated to meeting Connecticut’s workforce needs by investing in community college, and we are excited to be talking to educators and students about making education more affordable and accessible.”
The state’s debt-free community college program is scheduled to begin in September 2020, with qualifying students needing to have graduated from a Connecticut high school, be enrolled in classes full-time, achieve academic success and accept all other available financial aid. The program is part of the 2019-2020 two-year state budget; projections state the program could increase federal aid in Connecticut by up to $7.7 million and increase current community college enrollment by anywhere from 10 to 45 percent, reinvigorating the important regional educational institutions.
The program ended with a “take-away” in the form of a postcard which attendees may fill out and send to Governor Lamont and legislative leaders expressing gratitude and the opportunity to share a personal anecdote.