Connecticut's education policymakers have a lot of work to do, if they want to improve access to higher education and ensure poor students are upwardly mobile, according to a recent state-by-state analysis by the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.
The "college opportunity risk assessment" ranks each state according to how well they're doing things, like preparing students for college, and closing the gaps between rich and poor students. As it turns out, Connecticut is among the highest-risk states in the country, and the highest in New England.
"Connecticut needs to reconsider their policies to help some of these lower-income residents afford postsecondary education," said researcher Joni Finney, who helped put together the report.
"Some states, like Connecticut, can do relatively well in the preparation of young people, but we don't see them turn up in postsecondary education in this state," she said.
The state has a strong high school graduation rate. But, the report shows that almost two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds are not in college -- only 10 states have a smaller portion of young adults attending.
Finney said another challenge is financial.
"They are also fairly volatile in their higher education appropriations," Finney said, echoing a common concern expressed by the state's public college and universities. "So it makes it very hard -- for public institutions in particular -- to plan for the future, when they don't know exactly how much revenue is coming from the state."
She said the report is intended to be used in conjunction with local data to help make better decisions. But in an emailed statement, the state's education department said the report "fundamentally misunderstands Connecticut's commitment to education," and that it "uses irrelevant metrics to come to an incorrect conclusion."
"Indeed, despite fiscal challenges, the state has continued to prioritize education funding and improvement – particularly for our lowest-income students and communities," the statement read. "Connecticut’s efforts to ensure college and career readiness by prioritizing rigorous coursework while in high school is paying off, as evidenced by Connecticut students’ high performance on college readiness exams."
The report's authors acknowledged that some of the data is five years old, but also noted that the report includes a technical sheet explaining how it got its data along with its limitations.