Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING FINANCIAL AID FOR STUDENTS IN CRISIS.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Representative Gregory Haddad, Fifty-Fourth Assembly District
REASONS FOR BILL:
To assist students in crisis at public institutions of higher education gain access to institutional services and financial resources.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Sean Bradbury, Director of Government Relations-Connecticut State Colleges & Universities: Submitted testimony supporting the intent of HB-7234. Mr. Bradbury stated that, “Our institutions are all too familiar with these situations in which students may be homeless, food insecure, rejected by their parents, or are struggling to meet their basic human needs.” He also noted that many of the services addressed in this bill are already provided by the CSCU system saying, “We provide what services we can on our campuses to help students in these situations, including operating food pantries for our students at many of our institutions.”
Eleanor Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students-UCONN: Ms. Daugherty applauds the intent of this legislation; she notes that these problems can be better handled administratively and on a case by case basis. Ms. Daugherty also pointed out that the University already addresses many of these issues; in particular that, “self- reporting of financial hardship, due to special familial circumstances, would be directed to the Office of Student Financial Aid Services.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Alex Katz: Alex is a University Connecticut Alumni who graduated in 2014. During her time at the University Alex struggled with intermittent housing issues that worsened during her first two years at the University. She held an on-campus job that provided housing during her first semester but left her without a place to stay for a number of weeks. These problems eventually led to Alex moving off campus and, for a time, forced her to live out of a car.
Being estranged from her parents, Alex could not get the documentation needed to apply for financial aid. Due to the details of her situation Alex was “shuffled back and forth between departments looking for help” for over a year before she was, in her words, “lucky to meet a few amazing administrators my junior year, who were able to help me.”
She finished by saying, “We use terms like student-athlete, student-worker: we know being a student should come first, but for students in my situation, this is impossible. Let's provide the structures so they can succeed.”
Cindy Dubuque, Reaching Home Campaign Manager-Partnerships for Strong Communities: Ms. Dubuque noted that “68% (nearly 400) of those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity were between the ages of 18-24” and that “ensuring that colleges and universities are actively identifying students in crisis, is critical to finding these students.” Her testimony also noted that assisting students in crisis with financial aid applications would help alleviate housing insecurity before it starts.
Gwen Pastor, Policy Analyst-Connecticut Association for Human Services: Ms. Pastor's testimony states that HB-7234 would improve support for students who are food and home insecure while also helping students who claim a FAFSA exemption due to special familial circumstances. She also makes the point that “students frequently lose access to housing and food during school vacations and the summer when dorms and cafeterias close” and that these financial burdens often make it harder for students to afford required course material. This is important when 62 out of 350 students surveyed at Central Connecticut State University “identified as homeless, lived out of their cars, were couch surfing, or were staying in friends' dorm rooms.”
Stacey Violante Cote, Esquire, Director, Teen Legal Advocacy Project: Attorney Violante Cote submitted testimony in support of HB-7234 and echoed many of the same statistics about youth homelessness cited in other statements. She also added that federal law provides basic protections for estranged students applying for FAFSA; however, lack of address is a barrier to receiving this aid. HB-7234 would help to alleviate that problem.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
See RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY: Eleanor Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students-UCONN
Devin Keehner, Assistant Clerk
Jeanie Phillips, Clerk