Through a generous gift made possible largely by Yale University, any moderately successful student who graduates from a New Haven public school can now go to Connecticut state colleges for free. According to a piece by Winnie Hu in the New York Times:

City and school officials announced on Tuesday that a new program, called New Haven Promise, would offer to pay eligible students’ way through any public college or university in Connecticut. The program will also pay up to $2,500 a year to those who attend a private college in the state.

The program… is open to students who live in the city and have attended its public schools… since at least ninth grade, regardless of family income. Students must also have at least a 3.0 grade point average and a 90 percent attendance rate.

About 20 percent of last year’s graduates would have qualified for the program, which will cost Yale about $4.5 million a year. Many cities are creating scholarships like this to try and reduce dropouts and encourage low-income students to apply to college.

Recently elected State Representative Roland Lemar praised New Haven Promise. According to the article:

“I’m still paying off student loans from when I went to college 12 years ago,” Mr. Lemar, 34, said. “And to allow an entire generation of New Haven residents to attend college without that burden, my children included, is a wonderful statement of where our priorities are.”

A “wonderful statement of where our priorities are”? Maybe, Lemar. It may be a positive statement, but as recently as 1970 anyone in Connecticut could attend the state universities for free.

The colleges didn’t even charge tuition at all until the state legislature declined to keep up with the cost of running the schools. So where are Connecticut’s priorities?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer