Free Community College Takes One Step Ahead

A plan championed by State Senator Will Haskell to provide free community college in Connecticut took one step closer to reality today when the Board of Regents for Higher Education approved a one-time $3 million payment that will fund the program for the fall 2020 semester.

The program, Pledge to Advance Connecticut (PAC), was enacted last year, largely on the initiative of Senator Haskell and State Representative Gregg Haddad of Mansfield. Funding, however, was undetermined when the General Assembly adjourned in March. It remains a question beyond the upcoming fall semester.

Nevertheless, Senator Haskell was enthusiastic about today's Board of Regents action. "It's hard to put into words how important and historic this news is," said the senator, in a statement. "The rising cost of college will no longer prevent students from pursuing higher education in Connecticut."

"At a time of economic crisis for so many families, I'm proud to live in a state that's investing in a 21st century workforce. I look forward to continuing this work and securing funding to keep this important program available to generations to come."

As designed, the PAC program plan is simple. All first-time college students who have graduated from public or private high schools in Connecticut are eligible, regardless of their financial position. The portion of their tuition that is not funded by other sources of financial aid—such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program—is covered. Loans are not treated as financial aid.

The payment approved by the Board of Regents is expected to cover all applicants for the fall term. Senator Haskell said a year's tuition at a Connecticut community college costs about $5,000 and that 60 percent of students already receive enough financial aid to attend for free.

Those wishing to apply for the PAC program must do so by July 15.

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