NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The head of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities wants to expand the free college program to all community college students, and even some to university students. 

At CSCU, students can get free college under the Pledge to Advance CT, or PACT program. The PACT program covers the gap between federal and state grants a student receives, and their community college tuition and mandatory fees. To qualify, students have to be Connecticut high school graduates and first-time college students. 

Under an expanded program called PACT+, all community college students across CSCU’s 12 locations would be eligible for free college. PACT+ is one of the ideas in “CSCU 2030”, a proposal for state investment in public institutions of higher education. 

PACT+ would also offer free college to university students who plan to pursue careers in areas with high demand, such as health care, education, and manufacturing. 

CSCU President Terrence Cheng estimates 7,000 university students will be able to pursue bachelor’s degrees without debt. 

“It allows them to focus on their professions,” Cheng said. “It allows them to concentrate on being good productive folks in their communities and, frankly, it accelerates the social mobility that we take great pride in our system.” 

For the expanded free college program, CSCU is asking the state to invest $386 million over the next seven years. The CSCU 2030 plan has been submitted to the state’s legislature. 

CSCU reports that the PACT program has helped nearly 12,000 students.

Asiah Davis, a student at Gateway Community College, received money from the PACT program.

“Going into college, I was kind of worried about loans and everything I would have to take out so when I knew that I didn’t have to, it did take off a big weight off my shoulders,” she said.  

She said she is in favor of this program is expanded to all community college students. 

“It would help a lot of people stay focused on school and actually continue it and finish it,” she said. “They wouldn’t have to worry about fees and everything like that.”

CSCU reported about 20,000 community college students across the state discontinued their education during the pandemic. With PACT+, students like Alyssa Grimm, have the opportunity to go back at no cost. 

“I am really appreciative of that because now I get to know what I want to do with my future and plan things out accordingly,” Grimm said.