HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Top lawmakers in Hartford are looking at funding education with gambling. A proposed internet gaming system could be used to help fund a program to help pay community college tuition.
“We need to set this up so the program will continue and be a full-funding, self-sufficient program for years to come,” said State Representative Gary Turco (D – Newington) on a virtual press conference.
The program he is talking about is called PACT. It helps students pay community college tuition. Students like Izzy Jacobs.
“I watched people struggle to pay off their college debt,” said Jacobs, a student at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. “The PACT program has given me the opportunity to have a very reduced amount of debt compared to what I initially anticipated.”
PACT stands for Pledge to Advance Connecticut, and it is what is called “last-dollar funding.” It helps cover the gap between any state or federal funding, such as Pell Grants, and the actual cost of attending community college. By filling that gap, students do not have to go into debt to get an education.
Top democrats in Hartford say the program is worth its $3 million price tag.
“We don’t have oil and natural gas deposits and a major tourism industry like some of the warmer states do,” explained State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D – New Haven). “Our stock in trade is the intelligence and education and skill of our people.”
Democrats also want to ensure the future of PACT by funding it with money from the proposed iLottery. That is an online gaming system to sell lottery and keno tickets that could be expanding into online sports betting. It has the potential to bring in millions for the state.
Meanwhile, community college students are scrounging for every dollar.
“We had faculty who were buying extra books because they knew there were students who couldn’t afford them,” said Dr. Maureen Chalmers, the President of the Congress of Community Colleges.
“In college, not having that anxiety of figuring out how to make the payments at the end of the semester has allowed me the time to focus more on my studies and pursue any creative endeavors that I have,” said Housatonic Community College student Christopher Rosario.
Lawmakers say using gambling to pay for learning could pay off big for the state.