Thousands of Connecticut students who dropped out of college express interest in free program

Associated Press

More than 6,000 students who dropped out of college have expressed interest in a new program encouraging them to return to the classroom, education officials told state legislators on Thursday.

Of those inquiries, more than 800 students have successfully enrolled in classes this fall, said Lori Pendleton, director of admissions at Charter Oak State College, the state's online college. Pendleton said she expects about 990 will register this fall under the new Go Back to Get Ahead program.

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Pendleton told members of the General Assembly's Appropriations and Higher Education Committees that interest in the initiative, first proposed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, has been very strong. She said "the skies opened up" in June when students were first allowed to sign up. With spring enrollment, Pendleton said, the state is on track to enroll 1,400 students, which is in line with original estimates.

The program allows people who took college courses before Dec. 1, 2012, but left before completing their degrees to get up to three free three-credit courses at one of the state's 17 community colleges or universities.

Besides conducting a public information campaign, state education officials sent letters to 70,000 students who have not taken classes in the last 18 months or longer at the state universities and colleges.

Of the 6,127 inquiries they'd received as of Monday, about 3,500 were referred for possible enrollment. Of those that were not referred, Pendleton said, many of the students did not meet certain requirements, such as not being out of school for a minimum of 18 months, not having the minimum 12 college credits or not being in good academic standing. Those students, she said, were counseled on how to continue their education.