Connecticut leaders support free community college proposal

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HARTFORD– A new proposal by President Obama to make community college free is gaining support in Connecticut.

“I think it’s important really for our economic vitality to get more people into the pipeline,” Dr. Gregory Gray, president of the State Board of Regents for High Education, said Monday.

The plan would include two years of free community college to students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average or higher, as long as they pursue a degree and attend at least half time.

Gray said he believes it will help Connecticut’s economy by filling much needed jobs.

“Here in Connecticut, for example, we have issues coming up in the very near future in engineering technology, manufacturing, where we can’t graduate enough people for the jobs that are expected,” Gray said.

The plans comes at a cost: the federal government would pick up 75 percent up the tab, and participating states would pay the rest. Dr. Gray says it is worth the incentive.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said he is also on board if Congress passes the plan. “If a bill comes out of Washington that covers that kind of percentage of the community college bill for students who are full time employed and are marching steadily and quickly towards a degree we would participate and we will find a way to do that,” Malloy said.

There are roughly 16,000 full-time community college students in Connecticut and around 38,000 part-time students. The average cost of yearly tuition for a full-time student is $3,800.