The Connecticut General Assembly’s regular session ended on Wednesday, May 4th, but the legislature reconvened in a special session this week to adopt the budget. The Senate came in yesterday and the House will come in later today.
CCIC will share a comprehensive legislative summary in the next few weeks of relevant legislation that passed in both the regular and special sessions, but in the interim wanted to provide a brief update on some of the issues impacting the independent college sector.
Program Approval: SB 24 (now Public Act 16-36) passed both chambers and will be sent to the Governor for his signature. The bill exempts independent colleges that meet criteria laid out in the bill from academic program approval by the Office of Higher Education (OHE) for two years, expiring July 1, 2018. During that time OHE is required to study the role of a state higher education regulatory agency in the protection of student interests and outcomes and make recommendations to the legislature prior the expiration of the exemption as to what its focus should be long term. For more details, click here.
Governor’s Scholarship Program: The Governor’s Scholarship Program (GSP) appropriation for FY 17 was cut 8.9% from $41,023,498 to $37,363,944 (see p. 18 of the budget bill). The FY 16 appropriation for GSP was $39,638,381 so the reduction from one year to the next was 5.7%.
In addition, a bill passed both the House and the Senate during the regular session that made changes to the way the GSP program is administered. These changes include but are not limited to:
In addition, the program was renamed the Roberta B. Willis Scholarship program after the retiring co-chair of the Higher Education Committee who has been one of the strongest advocates for student financial aid in the legislature. A complete bill summary can be found here.
- Increasing the maximum award amounts for both part-time and full-time students;
- Providing flexibility to institutions to award “up to” a certain grant amount under the need-based aid program; and
- Capping the amount of funding that can be allocated to the need-merit program to 30% of the total funds available for GSP.
SARA: HB 5070 passed both chambers as well and is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. This bill requires OHE to join NC-SARA, a nationwide state authorization reciprocity agreement on distance learning programs, by January 1, 2017. The bill also authorizes OHE to establish application and renewal fees for all Connecticut institutions of higher education that participate in such agreement. A complete bill summary may be found here.
Promoting Innovation & Entrepreneurship: While SB 1 was not acted on in the regular legislative session, the budget implementer bill contains a number of provisions that seek to accomplish the same goals (see Sections 1-30). In particular these provisions:
See the complete bill summary here.
- Establish an innovation place program to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in compact, mixed use geographic areas with start-ups, “growth stage businesses,” “anchor institutions,” and access to public transit (§§5-9) ($29.5 in bond funds (over five years) is earmarked for this purpose);
- Establish a Technology Talent Advisory Committee to work to address shortages of qualified employees in specific technology sectors (§23) ($10 million in bond funds ($2 million a year for five years) are earmarked for this purpose);
- Authorize the DECD commissioner to establish up to 10 knowledge center enterprise zones in the state's distressed municipalities based on proposals submitted by higher education institutions (§24);
- Establish a Higher Education Innovation and Entrepreneurship Working Group to develop a master plan for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship at higher education institutions in the state (§27); and
- Establish a Higher Education Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee to review applications for higher education entrepreneurship grants-in-aid that higher education institutions, or a partnership of one or more institutions, submit (§28) ($10 million in bond funds ($2 million a year for five years) are earmarked for this purpose).