Eastern Connecticut State University was the recipient of some good news recently. Or I should say the university’s future students were. Gov. Dannel Malloy announced last week that TheDream.US, the largest privately funded national scholarship program, will be dispersing hundreds of scholarships to undocumented immigrant students to attend ECSU.

Bravo! No matter where hard-working students happen to be born, they deserve the right to quality higher education.

But while Gov. Malloy can applaud the disbursement of hundreds of thousands of dollars in private scholarships, he falls flat when it comes to supporting those very institutions poised to make the biggest impact on our state’s young people and their ability to succeed. In Connecticut and throughout the nation, public higher education is being systematically defunded, which places the current high-quality education students receive at our Connecticut State Universities in jeopardy.

Since the Great Recession, funding for higher education has failed to rebound to pre-recession levels.  State support went from just over 61 percent in 2006 to just under 52 percent in 2015.   Meanwhile, tuition keeps going up. Students in Connecticut now cover on average half the costs of their higher education through tuition alone. These constant tuition increases put college out of reach for many students.

The CSU system, which includes ECSU, CCSU, SCSU, and WCSU, is already in starvation mode: employing above the national average of part-time professors; limiting library and lab hours; offering more online instruction that deprives students of the mentorship and guidance they could gain from face-to-face interaction with professors.

Curbing waste and top-heavy management is understandable. But the deep cuts we are seeing to what make up the heart and soul of public higher education will only harm the very students these institutions seek to serve. At a time when we should be strengthening colleges and universities to ensure a ready and capable Connecticut workforce, there is a concerning lack of long-term thinking. Lawmakers need to reconsider support for public higher education as a sound investment in our state’s future.

A well-educated population and work force is highly cost effective and the benefits of higher education go beyond receiving a degree or landing a job. Research shows that higher education leads to 134 percent higher annual earnings, lower rates of poverty and crime, as well as lower rates of disability or being in jail.

And while some chalk it up to a “new economic reality” with austerity measures, deep budget cuts and greater corporate tax deals as the only answer, the actual reality is that Connecticut is the richest state in the union based on per capita income.  Low-to-middle income earners in our state, making less than $76,000 a year, pay double the tax rates when compared to those making more than $1.3 million a year. In terms of income inequality, Connecticut is at the top of the scale.

This means the working and middle classes are subsidizing the wealthiest of our citizens – those who need the least help. Meanwhile, public universities are being undermined because equitable tax policies are somehow taboo.

CSU students come to college to improve their lives and the lives of their families. They are largely first-generation college students; many represent ethnic and racial minorities. These new scholarships at ECSU are sure to be life-changing and hopefully dream-achieving for many of them. But as we attract new students to our institutions, we must — as a state — do everything we can to ensure our CSUs are well supported and able to continue to offer the same stellar education that students have received in years past. If we fail in that, we not only do a disservice to our students, but also to the future of our state.

John O’Connor is a sociology professor at Central Connecticut State University.


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lizzieBy Community Contributor Liz Newberg Pavlakis,

NEWINGTON – Community Renewal Team’s 13th annual Golf Classic to benefit Meals on Wheels saw nearly 120 golfers take to the greens to raise some green for Connecticut’s foremost elderly nutrition program that supports the independence and well-being of homebound seniors. IMG_3591 golf Read More

lizzieBy Elizabeth Newberg, Community Renewal Team,
With housing prices predicted to rise by as much as six percent in 2014, many people are thinking about turning their dream of becoming a home owner into a reality sooner rather than later. But for some consumers who may be unaware of the buying process, purchasing a first home can be full of unexpected pitfalls, challenges and costs that are a cause for pause when making the largest purchase decision of their lives. Read More

NEWINGTON – More than 100 women golfers hit the links at Indian Hill Country Club July 29 to show their support for domestic violence survivors and the programs that assist them. Together, golfers and sponsors brought in $33,000 during the event. Proceeds will be divided between Community Renewal Team and Interval House programs that aim to prevent domestic violence and assist survivors.

Lena Rodriguez, CEO and President of CRT stands at far right with Allison Morris of Fox CT, center,  and State Rep Mae Flexer, left of Morris.

Lena Rodriguez, CEO and President of CRT stands at far right with Allison Morris of Fox CT, center, and State Rep Mae Flexer, left of Morris.

The tournament happened to be played on the same day that the 2014 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee report was issued. The Fatality Review report made a series of recommendations to strengthen communication among agencies like CRT that come into contact with victims. This year alone saw 10 deaths in Connecticut from domestic violence.

“Events like this allow us to raise awareness along with critical funds that keep our doors open to women who come to us when they face a crisis,” she said. “‘Tee Off’ also provides a great opportunity for women to help other women. And when that happens -when we support each other – great things can be done.”
Key domestic violence advocates were on hand, including honorary chairwoman State Rep. Mae Flexer who is chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence at the Connecticut General Assembly. Flexer noted that one of four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. She said the public needs to stop asking why a woman stays with an abuser and start asking why that abuser thinks it’s acceptable to treat a woman in such a way. Read More

lizzieBy Elizabeth Newberg, Community Renewal Team Hartford
Artists young and old, professional and ama
teur participated in the 23rd Annual. National Arts Program Awards Ceremony Jan. 25, sponsored by Community Renewal Team at Capital Community College. A diverse group of more
"Butterfly" by Edward Zinowko won Best in Show at the 2014 National Art Program.

“Butterfly” by Edward Zinowko won Best in Show at the 2014 National Arts Program held in Hartford.

than 300 artists using a wide array of visual mediums showed their talent and contributed to community building through one of the largest regional arts events.

Held at Capital Community College’s Centinel Hill Hall auditorium, the winning artists from across Middlesex and Hartford counties, along with their families and friends, were treated to a private jazz trio and piano concert, as well as original poetry readings all to honor their artistic contributions.
Southington resident Edward Zinowko came home with Best in Show for his wood sculpture “Butterfly,” which was entered in the intermediate adult category. First Place winner in the Professional category went to New Britain resident Ray Shaw for his photograph “Jovan.”

Members of the Connecticut-based Free Poets Collective recited original poems inspired by some of the winning pieces of art.

The exhibit of all works still hangs at Capital Community College, 960 Main Street in the historic G. Fox building on the first and 11th floors through Feb. 9. Read More

lizzieBy Elizabeth Newberg, Community Renewal Team
7:10 p.m. EST, January 26, 2014
HARTFORD – Free income tax preparation services offered by Community Renewal Team begins its 12th year helping low- and middle-income Connecticut families capture maximum tax credits while saving the cost of tax preparation services – to the tune of millions of dollars.
Last year, CRT’s tax volunteers put $7.9 million into the pockets of Hartford and Middlesex County families through Earned Income Tax Credits, child care credits, tax refunds and savings on tax preparation fees. CRT tax filers have held onto more than $30 million in the past five years. Read More
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