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Tuition, scholarships on
General Assembly's agenda
February 16, 1998

Enhancing access to the University of Connecticut and other institutions of higher education will be debated during the 1998 General Assembly, with Gov. John G. Rowland, state House Democrats, and several other legislators proposing tuition freezes to make public higher education more accessible, and new scholarship plans to keep the state's best high school students in Connecticut.

As the 1998 legislative session opened, Rowland proposed a tuition freeze for the 1998-99 academic year at UConn and other state universities, the revenue loss to be offset by increasing the state's contribution to the Connecticut Aid for Public College Students (CAPS) financial aid fund by $4.4 million (the approximate cost of the freeze).

Other ideas include a House Democratic caucus proposal called a graduate incentive (GAIN) scholarship, offering free tuition to any state university for Connecticut high schoolers who graduate with a "B" average or better, and a proposal by Sen. President Pro Tempore Kevin B. Sullivan, Sen. George Jepsen, D-Stamford, Sen. Donald Williams, D-Thompson, Sen. Joseph Crisco Jr., D-Naugatuck, and Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey, D-Meriden, that would freeze tuition increases planned for the 1998-99 academic year, using the state surplus to replace the decreased revenues at UConn, the state universities, and the state community-technical colleges.

The Senate Democratic leaders also are proposing $1 million in state matching funds for UConn's Nutmeg Scholars program, an additional $1 million for the state's financial aid program for public colleges and universities, and an additional $2 million for financial aid at independent colleges and universities.

University officials are studying the package.

"It is imperative that Connecticut retain more bright young people in the state, where they can help sustain a growing economy and a high quality of intellectual life," UConn President Philip Austin said. "I am pleased to see so many of our legislative leaders taking an active interest in the issue. The University of Connecticut has a major role to play here, and I expect us to be deeply involved in the search for constructive policies."

Scott Brohinsky, director of university and government relations, concurrent.

"Certainly anything that will increase the University's accessibility is positive," said Brohinsky. "But until we see the details of the legislation, what the CAPS grant will actually be, and are able to analyze it, we won't be certain of its efficacy. Our number one concern is that educational quality is not sacrificed."

Rowland's Feb. 4 budget address maintained the University's base funding at the $148.8 million level set a year earlier, when biennial budgets were approved for all state agencies. The base budget for the UConn Health Center also remained at the previously established level of $64.6 million.

The governor also increased the state's contribution to the UConn 2000 endowment fund from $5 million to $6.5 million to cover the increased amount of contributions raised by UConn Foundation staff. The contribution continues to fulfill the state's promise of a one-to-one match, up to $20 million, for endowments raised privately by the University. The match will continue for the life of the UConn 2000 program, up to $52.5 million, but on a one-for-two match.

The scholarship proposal by the House Democrats, modeled after the successful HOPE scholarship in Georgia, will offer free tuition and fees to any state resident who finishes high school with a "B" average or better, and whose family income falls between $50,000 and $120,000 annually. Students whose family income falls below $50,000 will also qualify for free room and board. The scholarship would follow the student through all four years of college, as long as the student maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average once enrolled at UConn.

Richard Veilleux