Opinion: To dream or not to dream

Mark Ojakian
Mark Ojakian

Mark Ojakian is president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System.

As leaders in Higher Education, we understand that education is intrinsically connected to achieving the American Dream. At Connecticut State College and Universities (CSCU), a system of public institutions, we educate approximately 90,000 students a year, the majority of whom live and work in in our state.

These students are the future workforce, future leaders, future upholders of our democracy. At CSCU, we have always believe that education should be accessible to anyone who wants it and we are committed to eliminating any barriers students may have to achieving that American Dream. We are fortunate to live in a state that supports this principle.

In 2011, while I was serving as the governor’s chief of staff, we passed a law allowing undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition prices at our public higher education institutions. Initially four years of residency were required for eligibility — in 2014 we changed it to two. In the last two years, another bill came before our General Assembly that would have provided undocumented students access to institutional aid.

See the complete story at CT News Junkie.


  1. Piberman

    The larger question is how CT should allocate its State educational funding. Currently CT has a sizable public college system together with a very substantial private college system including one of the world’s premier Universities – Yale. And a sizable portion of our population reside in lower income cities where State funding is crucial to providing minimal education requirements. Given the presence of a large, well recognized private college system with several nationally recognized colleges there’s a good argument for shifting scares educational resources to those with the greatest need – our lower income cities. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education CT public colleges are among the highest paid in the nation. The recent $200k salary boost to UCON’s President indicates the issue. But our inner City public school teachers are far from the highest paid in the nation. And our Legislators even provide State support for wealthy school districts. CT really needs shift educational resources to where they’ll have the greatest impact – in our inner lower income cities – and away from our public supported colleges. Our lower income students have no alternatives. Why should they be short changed to support a nationally high pay ranked public college system when there’s a well functioning and well recognized private college system available ? That issue has far more resonance than whether illegals should have public college access in CT.

  2. EveT

    I don’t often agree with Mr. Berman, but he’s right about this: “CT really needs shift educational resources to where they’ll have the greatest impact – in our inner lower income cities.”

  3. Piberman

    Thank you Eve. The situation in the inner cities is really dire. Not many “living wage jobs” are available to High School students with a degree. The well paying jobs for high school grads include the STEM(hi-tech/computer) areas, mechanics, health and the various construction trades. But educational resource are mostly placed in the “traditional subjects”. Our college students are in the same boat. If we’re ever going to build our inner cities into viable multi-generational communities striving for the middle class it’s essential to orient their public school system towards outcomes where graduating students can secure good jobs with the skills they’ve secured in school. To make that transition takes more resources. But our CT Legislators have other interests. Such as giving every community some State funds for education. Plus oodles of funding for the public colleges where many of the grads face similar difficulties obtaining good jobs based on the skills they learned in school. Unlike other CT residents our inner city kids have only one way of “breaking out” – getting an education that qualifies them for available well paying jobs. Not just degrees.

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