Legislative Panel Considers College Scholarship Bill

A measure that would allow Connecticut’s poorest towns and cities to establish college scholarship funds for their student residents through the sale of municipal bonds faces a possible vote by the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee following a public hearing last week.
If passed by the General Assembly and signed into law, the bill (H.B. 5347) could have a major impact on graduation and college attendance rates in Hartford and the other 24 municipalities that the state officially classifies as “distressed communities.”
Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra, Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto and the Hartford Consortium of Higher Education, which represents the colleges, universities and seminaries that serve Greater Hartford, all submitted testimony in support of the bill.
Dr. Kishimoto and Mayor Segarra both explained that a publicly financed scholarship program would complement the Hartford Promise Scholarship and College Access Fund that was established last year with $4.1 million from the city’s business and philanthropic leaders. They characterized the legislation as a tool that will improve the state’s economy be creating a highly trained workforce.
Dr. Kishimoto called the option of bonding for scholarships “a logical and responsible step in the direction of developing the kind of educated workforce that will attract employers and ensure economic growth.”
“I believe that municipal governments and private industry should share the responsibility for utilizing education to drive economic development,” Mayor Segarra said. “This is the type of public/private partnership we should promote and engage in.”
According to the legislation, students seeking the scholarships must reside in the town or city providing them; be enrolled in a state accredited college or university and maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average in high school. Scholarship recipients must also agree to work and live in Connecticut for a certain number of years after graduating college, as determined by their municipality. If a student fails to meet the residency requirement, he or she would have to repay all or part of the scholarship.
“The promise of financial support, beyond that already offered by the federal government and the higher education institutions themselves, delivers to these students a powerful message of support from their community,” said the chairman of the consortium, Ed Klonosky.
The state Department of Economic and Community Development defines a “distressed” community as having high unemployment, poverty, an aging housing stock and declining jobs, population and per capita income. In addition to Hartford, the following municipalities would also have the option of bonding for scholarships under the proposed legislation: Ansonia, Bridgeport, Bristol, Derby, East Hartford, Enfield, Groton, Killingly, Meriden, Montville, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, North Canaan, Plainfield, Plymouth, Putnam, Sprague, Torrington, Waterbury, West Haven, Winchester and Windham.

David Medina
Hartford Public Schools

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