The Soap Box
By Timothy Bristol
It’s Time to Reinvest in our Future
The State of Connecticut has had a turnaround in its budget problems in the last few years. The state is set to have a surplus of around 6 billion dollars and it’s time that we reinvest in a few areas that have been cut in the past to make up the holes in the budget. One of those areas, in particular, is the Connecticut State University and community college system.
For years, the state has cut budgets and asked for more cuts when they needed to reduce spending. As a result, the Connecticut public universities have had to raise tuition at higher rates than it otherwise would have. I was at a hearing in Hartford a few years back, before the Covid pandemic, where the Higher Education committee was considering bills for free or debt-free public college. That year they did end up passing the free community college program into law. A program that provided 2 years of free community college to residents that applied
While at that hearing, I was waiting to testify about how the state could relieve the growing student debt crisis. Before I spoke the committee called up the Connecticut State University Regents President for his testimony on the various bills up for consideration.
He spoke about how the State public college system must raise tuitions to make up for the lack of state funding and that the state can’t cut its budgets again because there is no more money to give. I will always remember when he said “You can’t get blood from a rock, there is no more that we can cut.”
This stuck in my head for quite some time. I was a student at the time and about to complete my bachelor’s degree. I had seen and felt many of the changes that the college system implemented in order to cut costs and consolidate. They reduced administrative costs by combining the university and community college systems under one administration. I felt the rise in tuition and talked to many professors and colleagues who were frustrated at budgets that had been cut.
It is time for the general assembly and the governor to reinvest in our public colleges. The burden of tuition that is rising faster than inflation is going to become too much for students even with grants and loans.
If the state wants to keep young people in the state, they need to provide the college programs and the funding to allow those students to get the high-tech and STEM jobs that are waiting to be filled in Connecticut.
The General assembly could also expand the free college program to more than just the community colleges or at least make Connecticut public colleges debt-free.
We have a great public college system here in Connecticut, but it needs investment and we should start prioritizing higher education again.