This morning I met with some of our state legislators to talk about topics of importance for higher education. Wesleyan is a member of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, and our sector provides significant opportunities for students across the state. About a third of Connecticut undergraduates attend not-for-profit private colleges and universities, but we award about half of the degrees in the state. The students we enroll are much more likely to graduate! An educated workforce is one of our state’s great resources, and our sector is a large contributor to this environment.
One of the issues we are most concerned with these days is cut to the state’s support for students with financial need — the CICS program. Connecticut residents have been eligible for grants at private institutions, and for many this support has been crucial. Governor Malloy has deep fiscal challenges to meet, and I have a great deal of respect for his efforts to visit citizens throughout the state to hear their responses to his budget plans. He has rightly noted that all citizens will have to sacrifice in order to put Connecticut back on the right economic track. Unfortunately, the plans announced for CICS go beyond shared sacrifice. In just a few years they would decimate the program on which so many of our students depend. About 14% would be cut next year, and the proposal is to cut 50% in year two! That’s just taking a hatchet to a very successful program. We need a scalpel.
We have been making our case in Hartford, and this morning we made it again at breakfast. Support for higher education in Connecticut is a crucial investment in our long-term economic health, and helping state residents stay close to home to complete their degrees makes a lot of sense. I am hopeful that the governor and our state legislators will find a way to preserve more of the financial aid going to undergraduates. This aid pays real dividends in the long run by promoting excellence in Connecticut.
Speaking of excellence in CT: Congratulations to the Huskies on an amazing run to the National Championship!