Senate Approves of Bill to Expand Access to Financial Aid
Senators Looney & Winfield help lead passage of bill to allow undocumented students to receive institutional financial aid at state colleges
Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) today helped lead passage (21-13) of a bill that will expand higher education access by permitting students participating in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other undocumented immigrants to apply for financial aid at Connecticut state colleges and universities.
Senate Bill 147 will allow undocumented students access to institutional financial aid at Connecticut state colleges and universities. Undocumented students have been paying into the institutional aid pool for years. The bill will enable undocumented students to begin accessing some of the money that all students have already been putting in.
“Many of these students have lived in our state for virtually their entire lives; they are our neighbors and our children’s friends and classmates,” said Sen. Looney, a co-sponsor of the bill. “This is a smart investment in talented and hardworking Connecticut students who will be a significant part of Connecticut’s economic future. This bill represents the next step along this path towards equity.”
“Students who live in our state and attend our public colleges and universities should be allowed access to the same financial assistance that is available to any other Connecticut student, whether they have legal immigration status or not. When students pay tuition, they pay into the system and should be able to apply to get some of that money back,” said Sen. Winfield a co-sponsor of the bill. “We have heard from many students who have lived in this state for much of their lives but have been denied access to common programs, like financial aid, at the college they are paying tuition to attend. It doesn’t make sense to treat these scholars differently than their peers, and I believe that those who are bettering their lives through higher education should be able to participate in programs designed to help them meet that goal.”
The institutional financial aid grants are funded by set-asides from the tuition of all students, including undocumented students. The contributions made by these students already subsidize the education of others, and this bill allows them the opportunity to access the fund into which they pay.
State Senator Danté Bartolomeo (D-Meriden), who is Senate Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee that conducted a public hearing on the bill, said 986 letters of support were entered into the record on behalf of the bill, indicating its strong, public support.
“Given the fact that these students—through their own tuition payments—are subsidizing all students with their institutional aid, it is only fair and just that they be able to have access to it too,” Sen. Bartolomeo said. “And remember that every one of these students has signed an affidavit that they are on a path to citizenship. This bill helps them to become contributing citizens and higher wage earners.”
College graduates are six times more likely to have a job and tend to earn a higher salary. They are less likely to commit crimes or seek government assistance. People with college degrees also pay more in taxes than those who don’t. Extending financial aid opportunities to undocumented students allows them to pursue better futures for themselves, and in turn contribute more to the State of Connecticut. This helps reduce the overall tax burden on all families.
Students who attain degrees from public universities and colleges in Connecticut are more likely to build careers here in Connecticut.
Now that Senate bill 147 has passed in the Senate, it will move on to the House of Representatives for further consideration.