UConn, Waterbury Officials Announce ‘Promise’ Financial Aid Program

Talented students from the Brass City will receive financial aid for attending any UConn campus

UConn Waterbury, where the Promise Scholars partnership was announced Jan. 5.

UConn Waterbury, where the Promise Scholars partnership was announced Jan. 5 (UConn Photo).

Waterbury students who maintain strong academic performance will receive substantial financial aid to support their academic careers at UConn if they are offered and accept admission at any of the school’s campuses, UConn and city officials announced Wednesday.

The Waterbury Promise program’s partnership with UConn was unveiled Wednesday at the University’s Waterbury campus in an event that included Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, Mayor Neil O’Leary, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Verna Ruffin, and many local, state, and UConn officials.

It goes into effect with the first incoming class of graduating high school seniors from Waterbury’s high schools, who would become part of UConn’s Class of 2026 if they are offered and accept admission to the campuses in Storrs, Waterbury, Hartford, Stamford, or Avery Point.

The Waterbury Promise Scholars at UConn will receive $5,000 per year from the University to be split between fall and spring semesters, paired with generous need-based scholarships from the Promise program that would increase for each of the next three cohorts as the program expands.

For some students with modest family incomes, that combination of aid along with other federal, state, and UConn aid could cover most or all of their tuition and fees, and potentially a large part of their on-campus room and board costs if they live in Storrs or Stamford student housing.

There will be no cap on the number of Waterbury Promise Scholars who can benefit from the opportunity.

“Our students are truly the pride of Connecticut, and this agreement demonstrates our commitment to making sure they have the resources they need to be successful,” Agwunobi said at Wednesday’s event, which took place on the UConn Waterbury campus.

Agwunobi also extended the University’s gratitude to the Waterbury Promise program coordinators, city and school district officials, and state and regional leaders who worked together to support the initiative and help students reach their educational goals.

“Most importantly, of course, we owe our thanks to all the students from Waterbury, past and present, who have done so much to enrich not only the University of Connecticut, but our entire state. None of this would be happening without the track record of success they established, and they deserve our gratitude,” Agwunobi said.

Mayor O’Leary, who is also a member of the 11-person Waterbury Promise Board, says the scholarship program will provide aid to qualifying students in Waterbury’s public high schools along with Holy Cross High School and W.F. Kaynor Technical High School, which also both are in the city.

“The City of Waterbury commends Gov. Ned Lamont, Dr. Agwunobi, the UConn Board of Trustees, and all the staff who have worked so hard on the UConn and Waterbury Promise Program agreement,” O’Leary said. “This collaboration will break down the financial barriers our students face, and allow them an equal opportunity to attend the state’s flagship university.”

Students will qualify for the aid if they live in Waterbury and attended all four years at one of the schools; has earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher; have achieved a cumulative attendance rate of 90 percent or better; and has completed and submitted a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is used to determine family assets and need.

The $5,000 that UConn is committing per year for its Waterbury Promise Scholars can be used for tuition, fees, room and board, books, and whatever other education-related costs remain for the students while enrolled in the University.

The Waterbury Promise Scholarship is a last-dollar in, need-based award covering the gap (up to the annual scholarship maximum) that remains after the UConn commitment and other accepted financial aid such as grants, scholarships, and student loans have been applied to a student’s bill.

UConn undergraduate students who hail from Waterbury attend all of the University’s campuses, according to UConn enrollment data, but the vast majority are enrolled in the downtown Waterbury campus on Main Street. For many, this allows them to remain connected with their families and employment while pursuing studies in the many academic areas that the campus offers.

The additional available financial aid is expected to help many students afford to live on campus in Storrs or Stamford student housing if they wish, adding opportunities that might otherwise have been financially impossible.

The scholarships also are expected to expand the number of local students who enroll at the Waterbury campus, adding to that location’s vibrant sense of community and helping the city’s future leaders reach their educational and career goals.

“UConn’s decision to match and provide additional funding for our students receiving Waterbury Promise is truly a life-changer for students,” Dr. Ruffin said. “The Waterbury Promise Scholarship Program will eliminate financial barriers that too often prohibit talented students from pursuing and completing higher education. I applaud this strong collaboration and partnership with UConn to assist our students in pursuing and completing their post-secondary education.”

UConn has one of the highest retention and graduation rates among public universities nationwide, and expects the trend to continue with the Waterbury Promise students as it does with their counterparts in the New Haven and Hartford Promise Scholars programs.

With almost 900 enrolled undergraduates, UConn Waterbury is also among the most diverse campuses and has a tradition of strong support for first-generation students and those who juggle classwork and jobs.

“This Board of Trustees has made a very conscious effort to support our communities and Connecticut students who want to attend our flagship university. This is our third Promise program, and we hope to be involved in similar programs with other Connecticut municipalities in the future,” UConn Board of Trustees member Thomas Ritter said.

“Today’s announcement also would not have been a reality without the tremendous leadership of Mayor O’Leary. He ‘gets it,’ and we look forward to working with him and the Waterbury community to expand our presence here even further,” Ritter added.

The Promise programs, along with other forms of need-based and merit-based aid, are critical to UConn’s efforts to recruit and retain talented, diverse, and ambitious students who can take their successes at UConn back into their communities and elsewhere.

“Talented students are positioned well for success when they have support from their families and communities, and can tap in to an affordable, high-quality education at an institution that is committed to their future,” said Nathan Fuerst, UConn’s vice president for enrollment planning and management. “The agreement between UConn and Waterbury Promise offers students the holistic support they need to earn their UConn degree and position them for success in life.”