Connecticut's Degree Completion Program Takes Shape

Connecticut is moving ahead with its statewide adult degree completion program called “Go Back to Get Ahead.” The program is a direct result of state legislation that goes into effect July 1, 2014 and encourages Connecticut residents “who previously enrolled in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, but left such program prior to its completion, to return to an institution of higher education to earn a degree."

Connecticut governor Dannel P. Malloy and the president of the state’s Board of Regents, Gregory Gray, have been the driving force for this project.  The governor’s strong support for the program has resulted in a $20 million allocation for the program – $2 million for administration and marketing and the remainder to provide financial incentives.  The program will pay for up to three free courses plus standard fees at the part-time rate.  The money is paid to the colleges and deducted from the students’ bill.  To receive this incentive, students must matriculate and carry a minimum of 6 credits per semester.  Students will receive the first incentive in their first semester, the second in the next semester, and the third in their final semester.

The program will accept returning students from any regionally accredited institution, but only allows them to receive the incentive to return to one of the 17 colleges in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (4 state universities, 12 community colleges, and 1 online college).

The program is being administered by Charter Oak State College, which is currently hiring dedicated Go Back to Get Ahead staff  to advise returning students. The Provost of Charter Oak will manage the project, with other COSC staff taking lead roles in marketing the project, setting up the CRM to manage the project, training staffs at the 17 colleges to manage the referral funnel and to use the CRM, and training staff on the reimbursement process. 

The Provost and her staff have committees with representation from each of the colleges to develop processes, program guidelines, and eligibility requirements.  The Provost has developed a communication structure to keep the 17 colleges informed.  Charter Oak senior staff meet regularly with the president of the Board of Regents to keep them updated and to affirm decisions.

Working with the information technology, institutional research, and other staff at each of the 17 colleges, Charter Oak developed an unduplicated list of potential students (over 80,000) to invite to return to college.  A personalized letter signed by the governor and the president of the Board of Regents will be sent during the month of June to this list of potential returnees.  This will be augmented by a media campaign comprised of radio spots, social media, posters, internet ads, etc. and a public relations campaign featuring the governor, president of the board of regents, and other college presidents.   The campaigns and marketing will drive the potential students to a URL or phone number so they can begin the process of returning.

The project is designed to encourage the students to take action.  Students must matriculate by September 30, 2016.  The program will end June 30, 2018.  However, once the money is depleted, no additional students will be admitted.

Below are the eligibility requirements for the program:

  • Returning students must be Connecticut residents who previously enrolled in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program at any regionally accredited public or independent institution of higher education.
  • They must be out of the regionally accredited public or independent institution of higher education degree program for 18 months as of June 30, 2014 (no courses for 18 months).
  • They must have successfully completed a minimum of 12 college-level credits.
  • They must matriculate to be eligible and be in academic and financial good standing.  (A student may pay off debt to be eligible).
  • Students must take a minimum of 6 credits a semester to be eligible, with exception of last semester.
  • Students who return with only 6 credits to complete their degree would be eligible for one free course.

Those not eligible:

  • Students who completed an associate’s degree, but did not start a bachelor’s degree are not eligible.
  • Undocumented students are not eligible.
  • Non-matriculated or visiting students are not eligible. 
  • Students who completed or dropped out of a certificate program are not eligible.

To continue in program:

  • Student must pass two courses (minimum of 6 credits) in the first semester to be eligible for the free course in the second semester; the two semesters must be consecutive.  If the third semester is their final semester, the student must have passed two courses in the second semester.
  • To be eligible for the final course, the student needs to be continuously enrolled in consecutive semesters (summer and intersession are excluded) and be completing by June 30, 2018.  In the last semester, the student does not need to be enrolled in 6 credits to receive the free course.  However, the student needs to have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 to receive the free course in the last semester.
  • In most cases, semester means fall and spring.  However, a student could opt to take two courses in the summer if it is his/her last term or if he/she has taken two in the preceding spring or is going to take two in the following fall semester.
  • If students fail or withdraw out of a course during the semester in which they are receiving a free course and falls below the two courses (minimum of 6 credits) requirement, the students are no longer eligible for the scholarship for future courses.

Business Rules:

  • GBTGA scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees at the part time rate for one three-credit course and fees per semester for students who meet the above criteria regardless if the student goes full time or part time.  (An approved tuition and fee schedule has been agreed upon with each of the colleges and universities.)
  • If a student is enrolled in courses at two different institutions, the home institution will be reimbursed for the free course and fees.
  • If a student receives a free course in one semester and then changes colleges the next semester, the counting of the free courses doesn’t reset; that will be the students second free course. 
  • In colleges that have more than one term in a semester, the student is only eligible for one free course during the semester.  If he/she is taking only one course each term, he/she needs to pay for the course in the first term and then receives the free course in the second term.
  • The Financial Aid Office will be notified of students who meet the Go Back To Get Ahead eligibility requirements so that the scholarship can be applied to the student account through the Financial Aid Office as a financial aid resource.  
  • Normally, all students have to go through the GBTGA funnel to be considered as part of the program so we have appropriate records and FERPA releases.  Alternatives will be developed to enter a student that learns of the scholarship shortly after the semester begins or registers for the fall 2014 semester prior to the formal announcement of the program (June 2, 2014).
  • A student does not need to fill out a FAFSA to be eligible.
  • If a student drops out of the college before the courses begin or never attends, the student will be dropped from his/ her courses, and the college will not receive the GBTGA funds.  If funds are available, the student would be eligible to apply at a later date. 
  • The GBTGA funds will be handled as a financial aid resource applied to the student’s account.    If a student is eligible for funding in addition to the GBTGA scholarship, total cost of education will not be exceeded.  Self-help funding will be reduced first.
  •  Colleges will be reimbursed based on the enrollment on the census (enrollment freeze) date for each semester. For colleges that have two terms in each semester, term 1 and full semester courses would follow the standard census date.  Term 2 courses would have a different census date.  
  • If a student falls below the two course (minimum 6 credits) requirement before the census date, the college will not be reimbursed for the tuition, but will be reimbursed for the standard fees.  Institutions will generate appropriate bills to students reflecting the deletion of the GBTGA scholarship.
  • If a student withdraws after the freeze date but before the institution’s final tuition and fee refund date, refunds will be calculated following their normal process, but the GBTGA scholarship must be applied to the tuition and fee balance.  If this is not the case, a cash refund is not expected to be paid to the student.