Connecticut State Representatives and Education Board members sat comfortably at a round table, microphones perched close to their lips, for a public hearing on Higher Eduction Thursday February 23, 2017. “Next we have Representative Gresko.” Mr. Gresko moved from his seat in the front row of chairs that lined the walls. He adjusted his three piece suit, took a seat at the round table, and set the microphone to the height of his lips. “Mr. Chairman I’m here to support House Bill 6583, to move Connecticut’s Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools into the Community College system.”
There are currently two aviation programs in the state of Connecticut located at Sikorsky Memorial Airport and Brainard Airport. Both of these programs are two year certificate programs that prepare the graduate for a career in aviation as Certified FAA Mechanics. The programs have a 98% completion rate and 95% of those who complete the course find a job immediately after certification. These success rates are stellar and considering the low cost of the program, the return on investment is remarkable.
The cost of enrollment is $6600.00 for the two-year program. There are currently 97 students enrolled, an impressive number since the program had to shut down last year due to a spike in tuition and a subsequent drop off in enrollment. With financial aid available these tuition costs would be manageable, however, the aviation schools fall within the class of Connecticut Technical High Schools and therefore make aviation student’s ineligible to receive aid to pay for their education.
Testimonies were given by several representatives in support of the bill’s passage. In addition, an aviation mechanic and teacher spoke, along with a 30 year veteran pilot. Both men firmly believe in the aviation schools mission. “These schools educate students who give back to Connecticut as certified aviation mechanics, a job field that is desperate for qualified workers,” the pilot said.
Indeed, most certificate earners do remain in Connecticut and work not only at nearby airports but also in factories and offices that supply these airports. The representatives, mechanic, and pilot all boasted about the success of the program. What they seek is funding to help further the education of students.
The most important aspect of the bill is to have Connecticut’s Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools moved from under the umbrella of high school education and placed justifiably within the sphere of higher education. These schools should be on par with Community Colleges.
Although students would still be ineligible for Pell Grants because the aviation program is a certificate program not a degree program, loans and other types of funding would become available to students to manage the cost of their education.
There was no one who spoke in opposition to the bill. In fact, one representative explained that she is “highly in favor of the bill.” House Bill 6583 is in now in the hands of the Education Board, potentially to be sent to the floor to be voted on by the entire House of Representatives.