Making College More Affordable And Reducing Debt

August 19, 2019

At a Youth Forum discussing important issues with legislative colleagues.

As Vice Chairman of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, I am pleased to have been instrumental in working with my colleagues to pass measures that will make higher education more accessible and affordable. We passed legislation to help with college debt and tax credits for businesses that help pay back student loan debt.

Among the legislation passed last session:

Debt Free Community College

A new law requires the Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) to establish a debt-free community college program for certain Connecticut high school graduates who enroll as first-time, full-time students. The program provides students with fall and spring semester awards that cover the unpaid portion of the tuition and required fees established by the BOR (i.e., tuition and fee costs, minus scholarships, grants, and federal, state, and institutional aid awarded to the student) or provide a minimum $250 grant, whichever is greater.

Awards under this program apply to the first 72 credit hours earned by a student in the first 36 months of community college enrollment in a program leading to a degree or certificate. The BOR must make awards to qualifying students beginning with the fall 2020 semester (Effective July 1, 2019)

Our state’s success relies on having a highly educated and trained workforce, especially with our push to increase jobs in educationally demanding industries such as biotech and engineering. Over the next year, the board of regents for higher education will establish a debt-free community college program for certain CT high school graduates who enroll as first-time, full-time students.

Reducing Student Loan Debt

Another law allows businesses to claim a tax credit of up to $2,625 per employee for making student loan payments on the employee’s behalf. A business may obtain the credit for full-time employees who have earned their first bachelor’s degree within the last five years and have refinanced their student loans with the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority. The credit equals 50% of the employer’s payment towards the loan principal (effective January 1, 2022, and applicable to income years beginning on or after that date).

These measures will help to get Connecticut back on track with respect to student debt and how we compare to other states.