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Conservative SCOTUS Attacks Higher Ed, CT Launches Baby Bonds, CSCUs Raise Tuition

Conservative Supreme Court Attacks Higher Education Equity

Over the past week, a series of US Supreme Court cases have dismantled policies designed to protect both equity and equality.

Ending Race-Conscious Admissions

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the race-conscious admissions programs at both Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated the Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment. Nevertheless, the Court did leave room for individual students to discuss how their personal experiences of race have impacted them in ways that demonstrate their character. That caveat is certain to become a policy battleground, as high school students, colleges, college counselors, and admissions officers begin to unpack this new era of college admissions.

The decision raises serious concerns about the future of educational attainment for people of color, especially in the country's most elite colleges. In a press statement, ERN CEO Jorge Elorza explained, "There is no question that structural racism is ingrained in the fibers of every institution; reversing race conscious admissions policies will only allow these prejudices to go unchecked…"

On Monday, several liberal groups filed a complaint with the US Department of Education arguing that legacy admissions practices amounted to affirmative action for the rich, favoring students who came from generations of privilege and discriminating against Black, Hispanic, and Asian applicants. In 2022, our affiliate, ERN CT, led an advocacy effort to ban the use of legacy admissions in Connecticut. (See our research on the schools that engage in the practice here.) Although the 2022 legislation did not ultimately pass, the topic raised significant media attention, and the state's public colleges officially announced that they would no longer use the practice.

Striking Down Student Loan Forgiveness

The following day, the Supreme Court also ruled against President Biden's plan to wipe out $400 billion of student debt through a program of loan forgiveness. Biden’s program, which would have granted up to $20,000 in debt relief for eligible individuals, would have affected about 40 million borrowers.

The conservative majority said that the President's plan was an overreach, in the absence of Congressional action. Justice Kagan's dissent, however, argued that the Court itself was overreaching, since it was deciding a case in which the plaintiff had not demonstrated standing through "a personal stake—an injury in fact." (More on this from NBC here.)

The CT Post writes that an estimated 500,000 Connecticut residents could have benefited from the Biden plan. Governor Lamont's press statement identifies that 200,000 Connecticut residents, in fact, were already approved for the relief.

Rolling Back LGBTQ Protections

Finding for a web designer who refused service to a same-sex couple, the Court also walked back LGBTQ protections on Friday. See the response from Connecticut's LGBTQ+ Caucus here.

This is surely an activist court, about which President Biden said on Thursday, “It’s done more to unravel basic rights and basic decisions than any court in recent history.” Combined, these three outcomes are especially troubling this week, as our country celebrates its independence and the freedom of its citizens.

CT Launches New Baby Bonds Program

In far happier news, Connecticut launched its new Baby Bonds program this week. Through it, the state will begin to address income inequality by investing $3,200 on behalf of every Connecticut child who is born after July 1, 2023 and eligible for HUSKY insurance. As the CT Mirror explains, when the recipients turn 18, they will be able to put this investment (anticipated to end up being worth between $11,000 and $24,000) towards higher education, a house, a business, or retirement savings. Notably, children from wealthier households often start out with this type of investment from their families, so the new statewide program is a considerable investment in narrowing multigenerational wealth gaps.

One of the proponents of the policy was Black and Puerto Rican Caucus Chair Senator Pat Billie Miller. "This is a new year, a new beginning for these children born into poverty," she announced. Kudos!

CSCUs Raise Tuition

Facing hundreds of millions of dollars in deficits after the passage of this latest biennial budget, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system will increase tuition rates for students—by 5% for all community colleges and 3% for other institutions. CSCU Chancellor Terrence Chang has promised to work with the board, faculty, and students to address long-term budget issues.


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