Campus of Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic CT Mirror

Most people would say they want the generations after them to achieve more, do better and live higher quality lives.

But that’s nearly impossible when prior years’ costs skyrocket, turning the one thing that acts as an engine of social mobility – higher education – into a pipe dream.

The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, along with the community colleges, are the most accessible and affordable option for many students in our state. But even the most affordable options are too expensive for many.

Data makes it clear why. In the 1970s, students could work a part-time job in the summer (about 257 hours of work at minimum wage job) to afford tuition and fees at the CSCUs. By the 1990s, that number jumped to 649 hours at a minimum wage job, still doable with a full-time summer job and part-time job during the school year. By the 2010s, it was more than 1,000 hours, meaning 20 hours per week for the full year. Raises in the minimum wage helped a bit, but by next year it will behind again to more than 1,000 hours.

We have systematically transferred the cost of education onto our students. In practical terms, students cannot afford public higher education if they want to eat and live in housing without working the equivalent of a full-time job (or more). These issues disproportionately affect students from families without the means to pay for their kids to attend.

The higher education committee has heard about many of the subsequent issues that students face because of this cost transference. Housing insecurity, food insecurity and mental health issues are common topics now as students live out of cars, skip meals and struggle with financial anxiety.

Fully funding the CSCUs would be a step in the right direction. It would help maintain tuition costs where they are, easing the burden on students. It would keep the academic programs our students love afloat. And it would provide more funding for resources like food, housing assistance and counseling.

If we truly want to help our students succeed and thrive in Connecticut, we need to fund their institutions, not cut millions from their budgets. Now, in our time of prosperity and surplus, is the time to do so.

Thomas Burkholder is a Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor at Central Connecticut State University.