Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was back on the campaign trail Tuesday pitching a proposal to make college in Connecticut more affordable.
“The reality is students are graduating with a very high amount of loans and some of those loans are much higher priced than when I was going to school,” Malloy, who has three college-age sons, said Tuesday.
This year, the legislature created a program that gives any child born or adopted in the state after January 2015 a sum of $250 toward a CHET college savings plan.
But Malloy, who faces a tough re-election battle against his 2010 Republican opponent Tom Foley, wants another four years to help expand on some of these programs and create new ones, like a student loan tax credit.
Student loan interest is tax exempt up to $2,500 on federal returns, but states don’t have similar provisions. Malloy wants to forgo $20 million in annual revenue in order to offer parents and students in Connecticut the same deal.
“But as the economy improves we think there’s room to do that,” Malloy said Tuesday during a visit to Central Connecticut State University’s student center. “It’s a more targeted way to bring relief to middle-class families than other ways of doing it.”
Malloy also wants to boost the governor’s scholarship program by $10 million and change the rules to allow the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority to refinance student loans using state-backed taxable bonds to provide capital.
Last week, the Board of Regents, which approves the budget for the four state universities and 12 community colleges, announced that will need a 9.9 percent increase or an additional $625 million in state funding to hold its tuition increase to 2 percent.
In October, the Office of Policy and Management will review the Board of Regents proposal and in January the governor will decide whether to include the increased funding in the state budget.
Asked about how he will proceed, Malloy said, “I suppose I’m not commenting. I want them to keep their costs within the range of inflation and I’ve asked them to do that.”
In the future, he said, “I think we’ll have discussions about what we do to drive more students to the institutions as a way of raising some portion of that money as well,” Malloy said. “It’s not just the tuition costs. It’s how [are] the tuition costs paid for? How is room and board paid for?”
He said over the last three years they’ve put more pressure on the Board of Regents to keep costs down, at the same time “as we’ve put more money in.”
The state block grant to the Board of Regents has decreased from $322 million in 2011 to $315 million for fiscal year 2015. Adjusted for inflation, the Board of Regents has seen a 68 percent decrease in funding since 2007.
Malloy also was confronted after the press conference by Pritesh Kapadia, a student.
Kapadia stopped Malloy to confront him about the continued tuition increases. Kapadia said he works part-time at Stop & Shop and his parents are paying out-of-pocket for his tuition.
“As a public university you would expect rates to be a little bit lower, wouldn’t you?” Kapadia asked Malloy. “When will they ever get lower?”
Malloy said he’s putting pressure on the Board of Regents to contain their tuition increases. He said this past year it was a 2 percent tuition increase, but if he was making minimum wage at Stop & Shop then he saw a 45-cent increase in his pay in January.
While he may have received a bump in pay, Kapadia said his employer eliminated his health insurance coverage, forcing him to find coverage elsewhere and increasing his costs even more.
Malloy suggested the 19-year-old shop for coverage on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange and a Democratic Party staffer took down his information so they could follow up.
There’s no mention of higher education in Foley’s nine-page policy paper released last month prior to the first debate. However, campaign spokesman Chris Cooper released a statement Tuesday evening.
“Governor Malloy’s policies over the past four years have resulted in tuition increases at state colleges and universities all across Connecticut, so this is another example of the governor trying to give out “candy” to distract from his record,” Cooper wrote. “For weeks, the governor has been announcing bonding projects he knows will never be approved, taking credit for funding that was already approved by the legislature and standing in front of bridge and road projects that were begun long before he became governor. This is another attempt to fool voters into believing that tomorrow Governor Malloy will somehow be different from yesterday, the day before, and the months and years before that.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that this year the governor’s scholarship program was increased by $2 million. That proposal was not part of the final budget.