$2.5M grant on chopping block

Joe Pelletier

Gov. Dan Malloy’s plans to chop a state grant program, of which Quinnipiac draws $2.5 million, drew an impassioned response from Quinnipiac students and administrators who took to a Hartford rally on Monday.

In his proposed budget, Malloy plans to shave the Connecticut Independent College Student Grant program by 25 percent next year, and 50 percent the following year. This year, the CICS grant offered 528 Quinnipiac students an average of $4,280, and a total $23.4 million to private institutions in Connecticut.

The grant offers financial aid for Connecticut residents who attend in-state private universities.

“We’re talking about people who couldn’t afford loans, like me,” said junior Ian McAfee, a Marine Corps veteran. “People who wouldn’t be able to go to a private school otherwise. Politicians always talk about how we’re the future, but now we’re having our futures taken away from us.”

McAfee joined Dominic Yoia, Quinnipiac senior director of financial aid, at Monday’s Hartford rally to advocate for the CICS grants.


“We’re not arguing the budget shouldn’t be cut,” Yoia said, citing Connecticut’s $3.2 billion budget deficit. “There’s no question there has to be cuts made, but why should it be directed at students?”

Yoia noted that the equivalent grant for students who attend public universities, the Connecticut Aid for Public College Students program, would be unaffected in the proposed budget.

Yoia drew some added motivation, he said, after seeing words from Benjamin Barnes, state policy and management director, who told the Connecticut Post: “I don’t think we can afford the luxury of this program (CICS) anymore.”

“I don’t know if it’s making or breaking students’ ability to go to college,” Barnes added, saying how “rich uncles” will chip in $10,000 for a student to attend private school, and schools will adjust financial aid accordingly.

Yoia confronted Barnes at the Monday rally.

“He was backpedaling,” Yoia said. “He said the words were taken out of context – I don’t know how you take that out of context. It seems like he’s got his mind made up.”

According to McAfee, Yoia gave a “pretty moving” speech during the rally.

“The whole building was packed full of college students,” McAfee said. “It was a pretty charged atmosphere, and it was a lot of people really concerned about these cuts.”



The planned CICS program cut immediately led Student Government Association President Louis Venturelli to his keyboard. On Friday, he sent a letter to Malloy asking the governor to reconsider cutting the grant. Venturelli garnered support and signatures from the student body presidents at Yale, St. Joseph’s, and the University of Bridgeport.

In his letter to Malloy, Venturelli said the grant program provides “increased opportunities for diversity” at private colleges.

He also wrote: “Many students enroll in private colleges for specific programs and opportunities that might not be available at public institutions.”

A delegation of Quinnipiac students planned to travel to the Hartford rally on Monday, but according to Class of 2010 Representative Vincent Simone, only a few showed up to take the afternoon shuttle.

Simone, from Franklin Square, N.Y., still saw fit to defend the Connecticut-only grant.

“It plays right into my duty on SGA,” he said. “So many from QU do receive this grant, and I’m representing the students who are here.”

Connecticut officially established the CICS grant in 1983, according to a state research report on the program. Since then, appropriations have steadily risen to the $23.4 million total of 2011.

Malloy recommended a CICS grant provision of $11.7 million for the 2013 fiscal year in the proposed budget.