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Malloy Targets Scholarship Money Going To Students At Private Colleges


February 21, 2012

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is seeking to cut $6.7 million in state scholarships for Connecticut students, including the elimination of scholarships for state residents at top private schools like Yale University and Trinity College.

Malloy is proposing to cut funding to the Connecticut Independent College Student Grant program, which provided need-based scholarships last year to more than 5,400 students attending 16 Connecticut schools. The program applies only to Connecticut residents who attend private colleges in the state, including the University of Hartford, Goodwin College in East Hartford, University of New Haven, and Albertus Magnus in New Haven.

For the first time, Malloy is seeking to end the program for any private colleges in the state with endowments higher than $200 million: Yale, Wesleyan University, Connecticut College, Trinity, Quinnipiac University and Fairfield University.

None of the Connecticut schools comes close in wealth to Yale, which has the nation's second-highest endowment at $16.5 billion. But the $200 million endowment cut-off is a close call for some of the schools, including Connecticut College at $212 million, Fairfield at $254 million, and Quinnipiac at $277 million, according to figures in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Judith B. Greiman, president of the association representing the private colleges, said the grants are highly important to many students who last year received an average of slightly less than $4,000. The maximum grant is more than $8,100, depending on a student's financial need. Greiman and some legislators questioned whether the state should be spending additional money on elementary education while cutting college scholarships at the same time.

"We don't want to close the achievement gap at K-12 and have a financial gap at college,'' said Greiman, a former top official in the governor's budget office under Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

To make the point, Greiman's organization created 12 cards — akin to Major League Baseball cards —each of which shows a picture of a different student who is currently receiving a scholarship.

One of those students is Laquisha Springer of East Hartford, currently studying behavioral neuroscience at Connecticut College in New London with the help of the CICS grant.

"The cost of one year of a good education is worth more than my family's yearly income,'' Springer says on the back of her card. "The scholarships and grants I've received from my school and elsewhere have helped to take off some of the anxiety of funding my education, but it has not been enough.''

Another student, Nicholas Hamilton of Bloomfield, is studying business administration at Mitchell College in New London.

"Financial aid has helped out enormously because it takes a little burden off what my family has to pay for me to get an education — and knowing that I could get more grants and scholarships for performing well in college just pushes me to perform at my best,'' he said.

The same program was cut last year under Malloy's budget — from $23 million to the current year's level of $18 million. Currently, students in the top six schools receive state scholarships totaling $4.8 million of that $18 million. For the second year of the two-year budget, Malloy wants to reduce the overall scholarship budget to $11.3 million.

The executive director of the state department that oversees the grants, Jane Ciarleglio, said that Malloy decided to draw the line at the state's six richest universities.

"The governor thought that with an endowment that large, they can come up with institutional aid,'' she said.

A spokesman for Malloy referred questions to Ben Barnes, Malloy's budget chief. He was not immediately available for comment.

Rep. Roberta Willis, a Litchfield County Democrat and co-chairwoman of the higher education committee, fought against last year's cuts in scholarships. Some lawmakers thought the battle was over, but Malloy came back with more cuts this year.

"No one likes to cut financial aid. It hurts,'' said Willis, who also sits on the appropriations committee. "But this is even more painful than last year.''

More than 25 students and administrators signed up to address legislators during a hearing Tuesday night at the state Capitol complex. One of the students — Alessandra Cabral of the University of Hartford — told legislators that she is a mother who already works two jobs in order to afford the tuition with the hope of obtaining a degree in biochemistry. Without the CICS grant, she said, meeting her payments would be difficult.

"I would have to reconsider my whole life,'' Cabral told legislators. "I don't think I could afford to go to college.''

Keisla Medina of Bridgeport, who is majoring in business management in the Class of 2013 at the University of New Haven, says on her card that financial aid has helped her move toward her goal of becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.

"I was born in Puerto Rico, but I have been living in Bridgeport ever since I was a year old,'' Medina said. "I am one of four siblings, and my mother is a single mother who for the past year has been unemployed. … Thanks to financial aid, my dream is slowly becoming true, but my dream is not complete until I graduate.''

Faced with cuts in the overall program last year as the state faced a dire financial situation, Yale University opted out from accepting the state scholarship money as "good citizens,'' Greiman said.

But Sen. Toni Harp, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the budget committee and whose district includes Yale, said that was only a short-term decision.

"I expect Yale to be crying the blues,'' Harp said Tuesday during a public hearing at the Capitol complex. "They took themselves out last year, but they said they don't want to be out forever.''

As Ciarleglio was explaining Malloy's higher education budget, Harp said, "Frankly, I don't like any of your cuts.''

On a day of education hearings at the Capitol, Malloy spoke to students rallying for education reform after sunset outside the Capitol. The students held signs and listened as Malloy spoke in the area between the Capitol and the adjacent Legislative Office Building.

"This is our opportunity to bring real reform to education,'' Malloy told The Courant after finishing his speech. "If we don't reform education, we will not be competitive in the future. We have presented a 163-page document that is soup to nuts on reform, and I hope it will be taken seriously.''

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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