Lawmakers mull ways to help millennials with student loan debt

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NORWALK -

Connecticut lawmakers are looking at ways to help millennials with crushing student loan debt.

Proposals being examined include free tuition and loan forgiveness programs.

Westport state Sen. Will Haskell, just out of college himself, wants to offer free tuition.

"I can tell you, as a young person who recently decided to move back to Connecticut, student debt holds people back and it's a crucial decision point," says Haskell.

But is free tuition really free? Twenty states already offer free tuition programs, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

New York is spending $163 million a year on it. In Rhode Island, a more limited pilot program could cost $13 million this year. In New Jersey, it's $25 million. But keep in mind, that's a small fraction of Connecticut's overall state budget.

“Nobody believes that we can have free college tuition,” says state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford). “Somebody is going to have to pay for that.”

Who would qualify, and at which schools, is still being worked out.

Another plan would forgive state-issued CHESLA loans, but only if you stay in Connecticut for five years after you graduate.

If a free tuition proposal passes, students would have to exhaust all their other options first -- like Pell Grants. Students would also likely have to have keep a certain GPA and take a full class load. In other states, that's kept a lot of people from qualifying.

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