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Colleges in the Nutmeg State are saddled with low graduation rates and high costs for low-income students, according to a recent report from Education Reform Now CT.

The report from the nonprofit, which was released on Nov. 12, found that many Connecticut four-year colleges struggle to maintain graduation rates and suppress net prices for low-income students. The report noted that some of the state’s public schools, including Southern Connecticut State University and Western Connecticut State University, struggle with both low graduation rates and high net prices for students.

“Our overall goal is to make sure that students and their families make educated decisions in terms of where they want to spend those precious college dollar resources,” Amy Dowell, the director of the Connecticut state chapter for Education Reform Now, told the News in an interview.

Education Reform Now is a think tank and nonprofit advocacy organization that specializes in public education. The organization has eight state chapters. Dowell said that the purpose of the report was to help Connecticut students and their parents decide their college plans.

The report focused on schools’ ability to provide a value education, particularly for low-income students, defining net price as “out-of-pocket cost after all grant aid is conferred.” The report also tracked graduation rates of first-time, full-time students within six years of enrollment.

The data — which was drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a publicly available database, and tabulated by Education Reform Now — was compared to similar academic institutions throughout the country using College Results Online data from 2015, 2016 and 2017. College Results Online identifies academic institutions that have similar characteristics.

Transfer students and part-time students were not included in the analyzed data regarding graduation rates.

According to the report, Southern Connecticut State University — which is in New Haven — ranked ninth out of 16 peer universities in net price for low-income students. The average net price for low-income students — which the report defines as students with an annual household income under $30,000 — was $13,571 at SCSU in 2016.

SCSU also graduated within six years approximately 44.3 percent of its underrepresented minority students in 2015. This metric fell to 43.5 percent by 2017.

Patrick Dilger, director of integrated communications and marketing at Southern Connecticut State University, outlined ways in which the university is working to improve graduation rates and lower tuition fees.

“Since we were founded as a small teacher-training school 126 years ago, Southern has always been committed to access and affordability,” Dilger wrote in an email to the News.

Dilger told the News that SCSU recently initiated a plan to improve retention, to increase curriculum and scheduling flexibility and to provide financial assistance for students. He said the university was recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to improve “success and retention of at risk students.”

He added that SCSU was one of 10 academic institutions awarded a $70,000 Promoting Academically Successful Students grant from the Connecticut Office of Higher Education’s Minority Advancement Program. The grant provides additional resources to students of color on academic probation. According to Dilger, the grant resulted in the removal of 64 percent of participating students from academic probation.

According to the report, the net price for low-income students was high at Quinnipiac University, located in Hamden. The average net price for a low-income student at Quinnipiac in 2016 was $30,412, 14th of 16 peer institutions. In 2017, the six-year graduation rate of underrepresented minority students at Quinnipiac was 72.9 percent.

Daryl Richard, vice president for marketing and communications at Quinnipiac University, emphasized Quinnipiac’s efforts to tackle the issue of accessibility.

“Next fall we’ll offer New Haven Promise scholars enrolling at Quinnipiac a minimum of $25,000 a year [in institutional aid], based on eligibility,” Richard wrote in an email to the News. “By awarding financial aid to more than 90 percent of our students, we are working hard to ensure everyone has access to a high-quality education.”

University of Hartford low-income students faced a net price of $26,271 in 2016, which ranked 15th out of 16 amongst peer colleges.

From 2015 to 2017, underrepresented minority students had a six-year graduation rate of approximately 44 percent.

Meagan Fazio, a University of Hartford spokesperson, told the CT Mirror that the university found “some of the comparisons and conclusions in the report to be misleading.”

“The report’s authors compare our institution to institutions in other states where the state funding, demographics, institutional resources, etc. all vary dramatically,” she wrote in an email to the CT Mirror.

Fazio added that more than 90 percent of University of Hartford students receive a form of financial aid.

The report compared Yale to just two peer schools: the University of Chicago and Columbia University. Yale ranked second with a net price of $5,171 for low-income students in 2016. In 2016, 98.60 percent of underrepresented minority students graduated within six years.

Dowell said that the net price of Yale for low-income students has decreased to below $5,000 since the report’s 2016 figure, which gathered praise from Dowell for “meeting the needs of low-income students.”

Education Reform Now was founded in 2008.

Nick Tabio |

Masfi Khan |