“Thank god we are not Connecticut” burdened with embarrassing student debt. Drew Harris testifies to the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, February 15, 2018

Watch Drew Harris testify here

Watch Drew Harris testify here

Good evening, I am Drew Harris. I am a professor of Management at CCSU. I teach Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy and I am currently the acting Associate Dean for the School of Business.

I want to tell a personal story that illustrates how unaffordable our public education has become and the impact it has on our state.

I grew up in Alabama and started college at a Junior College (as we called them back then). I paid $75 per semester in tuition. Adjusted for inflation my tuition and fees would be about $1,000 per year in today’s dollars. This afternoon I checked the cost of Community Colleges in Connecticut and tuition and fees run about $4,300 – more than four times, in inflation adjusted dollars than what I paid. In 1972 I entered a four year college – the University of West Florida – and paid tuition and fees that would be just under $5,000 in today’s (inflation adjusted) dollars. The tuition and fees at CCSU come to a bit over $10,000 per year. Not as bad a change as for community colleges, but still pretty bad. And the change is largely attributable to the reduction in state support for higher education.

In my college days I could work in the summer and earn tuition for the year. I could work 10-15 hours on campus and cover my expenses. Not so now.

This fall I will have three daughters in state universities – one at Southern and two at Eastern. If I were an average dad with average performing daughters, we would be facing about $50,000 in out-of-pocket next year if they commute. It would be closer to $100,000 if they lived on campus. If I were an average dad, our household income would be just over $70,000. This is why even though most of our students work 20-40 per week, the average debt upon graduation in Connecticut is $32,000.

When young people are burdened by that kind of debt they cannot buy new cars, the cannot buy houses, and therefore they don’t buy appliances, furniture, tools and all the things that go with a middle class lifestyle. There is no way most will take the risk to start a business. This is no way to build an economy.

I mentioned I grew up in Alabama. We use to have a catch-phrase: “Thank god for Mississippi and Arkansas” We’d say that when some index would come out – infant mortality, poverty rate, illiteracy – because Mississippi or Arkansas would always be a little worse than us. Well, now Alabamians can add “Thank god we are not Connecticut” when it comes to students debt, because we are worse that Alabama on that index. I find that embarrassing living in one of the richest states in the country and would hope you would too.