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financial aid

U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) met with nearly two dozen Southern students on Sept. 1 to discuss issues related to college affordability and other logistical hurdles toward getting a degree.

Murphy outlined his thoughts, as well as listened to the questions and concerns from the students and SCSU President Joe Bertolino. The hour-long roundtable discussion also attracted several staff members who work with students on a regular basis.

Murphy said the percentage of students nationwide who graduate from college in four years has declined in recent years. “Today, the traditional student is someone who is going to class for five to seven years, either full time or part time,” Murphy said. He also noted that the average age of a college graduate is moving closer to 30 years of age.

At the same time, “it is three times as expensive to get a bachelor’s degree today than it was in 1980, and that’s adjusted for inflation,” Murphy said.

Murphy expressed his support for the federal government to provide a free college education, at least for low- and middle-income families.

But he also suggested that it might be time to revamp how degrees are awarded – away from requiring a specific number of credits and toward a system that is based on competencies. In other words, if a student reaches a level of proficiency in a designated set of disciplines, they should be awarded a college diploma, whether it’s through a class or exam. He said that could reduce the time needed to spend in college. “The traditional four-year model is arbitrary based on what people had said it should be many years ago,” he said.

Students raised several issues during the meeting, ranging from frustration with the onerous financial aid forms to mounting costs to the challenges of working and going to school.

President Bertolino noted that the overwhelming majority of students work full time or part time. “(In many respects), we’re a working-class university,” he said.

One student praised the creation of the position of coordinator of student financial literacy and advising to help students navigate the financial challenges of college life. Lew DeLuca serves in that role.

Murphy praised Southern for being ahead of the curve in many respects.



Latino high school students at SCSU

The university hosted about 300 Latino high school students on campus recently for The National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) Quest Education Summit 2015, a one-day event for Latino and other minority students run by a consortium of Hispanic professional and educational associations. The goal of Quest is to promote higher education and career development. The Connecticut chapter of NSHMBA organized and ran the summit, which included informational workshops, motivational speakers, a college fair, various networking opportunities, and a campus tour.

The Quest program provides students with a real-world connection between high school and college. Students engage with role models in the community who have overcome similar barriers to success and learn best practices for applying to and financing college; understand how to better market themselves to prospective colleges; build relationships with regional college recruiting representatives; discover the many resources available for educational and professional pursuits; and build confidence and self-sufficiency. This event is free to all attendees and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and transportation.

Latino high school students at SCSU

This year’s Quest at Southern included breakout sessions such as “Snapshot of Life on Campus,” “The Essay and the Recommendation,” “Living Healthy,” and “Balancing Life Skills,” among others. A keynote address, “Education Matters,” was delivered by Carlos Perez, principal and founder of Perez Technology Group, a Hartford-based solution provider delivering cloud and IT infrastructure services to small and midsize businesses, primarily marketing firms and law offices.

Perez, who was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and now lives in Wethersfield, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business information technology at the University of Connecticut. He has worked in many different industries, including finance, health insurance, airlines, Microsoft OME Partners, and nonprofits, among others.

Southern is one of the sponsoring partners of the Quest summit. Members of the university staff who serve on the Quest Committee include Anna Rivera-Alfaro, Academic and Career Advising, and James Barber, director of community engagement.