Higher Education Co-Chair Seeks to Triple Funding for Aiding College Matriculation

State Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield (CT Examiner).


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HARTFORD — The co-chair of the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee said on Friday that he plans to propose increasing state aid to the ConnCAP program, an initiative aimed at giving low-income high schoolers a better chance at attending college.

State Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, said he would request that the program’s funds be increased from $920,000 in fiscal year 2024 to $3 million in fiscal year 2025.

The state Legislature earmarks the funds, which are then dispersed by the Office of Higher Education to qualified colleges and universities in the state. In 2024, the universities that received funds included the University of Connecticut and four of its campuses in Storrs, Avery Point, Stamford and Waterbury; Quinnipiac University; Western Connecticut State University; and Southern Connecticut State University.

Those higher educational institutions then partner with area high schools where ConnCAP staff guide students in filling out college applications and financial forms. The funds are also used to house parents at the colleges for a few weeks during the summer, where they can learn about college life and what’s in store for their children.

No program funds go directly to students or their parents.

Haddad is hoping the increased funding will allow more high schoolers to participate and more parents to visit the respective colleges. In addition, Haddad wants to amend state statutes to distribute some ConnCAP to nonprofits who work with high school students.

Haddad said the impetus for his proposal, which he will formally make later this month, was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, which disallowed using race as an admission criteria.

“We are really concerned that an already difficult path into college for many students, particularly low-income and first-generation students, will get even harder,” Haddad told CT Examiner. “There are already disparities in Connecticut regarding the matriculation rate for white high school graduates as opposed to Black and Hispanic high school graduates.”

Haddad noted that analyses and studies, such as one from the New England Board of Higher Education, show that matriculation rates for white high school students is higher in Connecticut than for Black and Hispanic students.

For some, Haddad said, the work of getting into college is overwhelming.

“Filling out the financial aid forms can be unbelievably complicated, and the applications can be somewhat mystifying,” he said.

Funding for ConnCAP has dropped over the past several years. About $920,000 is allocated for the program this year, which will go toward helping 460 students. But the program earmarked $1.29 million to help 620 students last year, and $1.7 million for 700 students in 2022. 

Haddad said his committee usually works in a bipartisan fashion, and doesn’t believe there will be a problem with his upcoming request. Any bill would also need to pass through the Appropriations Committee.

“Our committee has generally worked really collaboratively together and in a bipartisan manner to come up with solutions that work,” he said. “I don’t anticipate that there will be a problem.”

Haddad told CT Examiner he expects language for a bill to be drafted soon and that a public hearing would take place in about two weeks.

Higher education institutions that have received ConnCAP funding say the program has been an overwhelming success.

“Students in ConnCAP have engaged in a variety of activities that expose them to higher education at UConn and other higher education institutions. as well as expose them to college tours, STEM-focused workshops, wellness programming, community service and cultural enrichment,” a UConn spokesperson told CT Examiner.

Katie DeOliveira, director of Southern Connecticut State University’s Center for Academic Success and Accessibility Services, said in a statement that, “Our program also uniquely engages and integrates parents, providing support in both English and Spanish to increase involvement and prepare them to navigate the college admissions process.”

Meanwhile, Western Connecticut State University President Dr. Manohar Singh said the ConnCAP program has helped hundreds of students achieve their dreams of attending college. 

“Danbury is among the most diverse cities in the state with the largest high school, serving thousands of Pell Grants and first-generation students,” he said. “It’s a great fit with WestConn’s mission of serving communities, promoting diversity and inclusion.”

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950