What is the State Scholars Program?

Connecticut State Scholars is as simple, low-cost, high-impact strategy that motivates students to complete rigorous high school courses that prepare them for college and careers. Research shows a direct correlation between challenging high school coursework and success in the modern workforce, the military and postsecondary education. The State Scholars Initiative began when concerned businesspeople, educators and researchers noticed that many high school students were not enrolling in or completing essential academic courses such as algebra II, chemistry and advanced English.
Connecticut State Scholars is endorsed by employers, the state Departments of Education and Higher Education, and local school districts.


Why is there a need to a Scholars Course of Study?

The Scholars Course of Study responds to four trends.

  • First, high school graduates are showing up in universities and colleges without the requisite skills to perform at the postsecondary level. Almost half (49 percent) are required to take remedial courses before digging into their collegiate studies. This has cost ramifications for the individual, the family and the community at large. It also makes it six times less likely that the student will ever complete a degree.
  • Second, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, by the end of the decade the U.S. will face a shortage of 12 million qualified workers for the fastest-growing sectors of the job market. Furthermore, employers consistently cite poor writing and math skills among job candidates.
  • Third, people lacking college or job training can expect to remain on the lowest rungs of the pay scale. Skills are vital currency in the knowledge economy job market.
  • Fourth, a large percentage of the student population does not understand that they have to be proactive about their education. The State Scholars program shows a student the broader range of options open to them when they complete a Scholars Course of Study and lets them participate in a crucial decision about their future.

From a student’s perspective, completing the Scholars Course of Study builds currency in their future and increases earnings potential. Hard work pays off.

From an employer’s perspective, the Scholars Course of Study means access to a skilled and stable workforce that helps businesses compete.

Why was Connecticut selected?

Connecticut was selected because the Center for State Scholars (CSS) believed that the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, working with the state departments of Education and Higher Education, would form a strong partnership for high school reform in the state. The Center also wanted to encourage the state’s significant positive trends in completion of rigorous language arts, math and science courses. To select states in general, the CSS solicited proposals and evaluated each based on a four main criteria:

    1. High school reform is a priority for decision leaders
    2. A viable state business-education coalition exists to house and lead the Scholars effort.
    3. Key in-state corporations serve as “flagship” sponsors through financial and in-kind.
    4. The state policy structure is aligned with rigorous Scholars course completion.

CBIA is one of 12 business organizations selected nationwide by the Center for State Scholars to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

Are all Connecticut school districts able to offer this course of study?

In 2004, two school districts, New Haven and Danbury, will pilot the Connecticut State Scholars program. Middletown’s Vinal Technical High School will start their pilot for the vocational-technical system in September 2004.

Why become a Connecticut State Scholar?

Graduating as a Connecticut State Scholar means a student:

  • acquires advanced academic skills
  • develops sound decision making and critical thinking skills
  • is prepared for college and reduces the likelihood of needing costly remedial courses
  • is a stronger candidate for certain types of financial aid and scholarships
  • has enhanced opportunities for placement and future advancement with local and international employers

Employers, colleges, universities and technical schools care about an applicants overall education, not just a grade-point average. They prefer people who have completed a demanding course of study in high school. They value a C in a hard class more than an A in an easy one.

What role do parents play in Connecticut State Scholars?

A parent’s encouragement and support are essential in helping a student achieve their academic goals. In the 8th grade, each student will prepare a four-year Scholars Course of Study plan with the help of parents and school counselors. Parents should work with school counselors and teachers to help their children meet Scholars’ course requirements. In this way, parents help ensure that students are prepared for the workforce or higher education upon graduation from high school.

Who pays for State Scholars?

The principal investment in State Scholars is one the business community makes in the form of volunteers who go into schools to make State Scholars presentations. Local and national businesses also provide cash and in-kind contributions to provide incentives and support to students and to recognize their achievement.

Additionally, the Center for State Scholars has awarded the CBIA Education Foundation $300,000 over the next 24 months to establish the state infrastructure for the Scholars Initiative.

Is this a scholarship program?

No, the Scholars Initiative is a school- and community-based information campaign to motivate students to make informed decisions about high school course selection, and a public/private initiative to get states to adopt a rigorous course of study as an official graduation plan.

To encourage students to complete its recommended course of study, one state, Texas, has made Texas Scholars course completion a qualification for its need-based grant program. In Arkansas, two community colleges offer free tuition to Arkansas Scholars and a third pays for Scholars’ textbooks. Other states, including Connecticut, are exploring similar ties, and the Center for State Scholars supports such incentives.

Does the Scholars Program affect course content?

The Scholars Initiative is principally concerned with the course of study. In each state, the business-education partnership defines the course of study that corresponds to content that equates to the rigor of the U.S. Department of Education’s defined course of study.
To graduate as a Connecticut State Scholar, a student must complete the following courses with a grade of C or better:

    • 4 credits in English
    • 3 credits in math (algebra I, geometry, algebra II or equivalent integrated math)
    • 3 credits in lab sciences (biology, chemistry, physics)
    • 3.5 credits in Social Studies (U.S. history, world history, world geography, economics, government)
    • 2 credits in the same world language

How will State Scholars affect Connecticut higher education entrance exams?

It is expected that students are more likely to learn content that they have been exposed to than content they have not. Taking the Scholars Course of Study will provide our students with a greater likelihood of success in college and the workplace. A study by The College Board found that students who complete a more ambitious course of study score an average of 102 points higher on the SAT.

Do all businesses have to contribute to the program in the same way?

Businesses can be involved in various ways – providing employees for presentations to 8th and 9th graders, contributing financially or in-kind, serving on committees to implement the program and supporting the program by valuing a “state scholar’ as a preferred hire – whether for summer, internships, part-time or full-time.

What financial obligation will be expected from businesses?

The Connecticut State Scholars program is NOT a big financial investment. The more businesses that are involved, the smaller the financial request from anyone. Major funding requirements will be for communication materials and tutoring or extra classes; rewards (such as certificates of achievement, discount cards); and recognition events. In-kind contributions can lower the cost substantially and are actively encouraged.