Editorial: Takeaways from first gubernatorial debate

Democrat Ned Lamont speaks as he meets Republican Bob Stefanowski in the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign between the two candidates at the Garde Arts Center on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in New London, Conn. (Sarah Gordon/The Day via AP)

Last week, Connecticut held its first gubernatorial debate of this election cycle, with Democrat Ned Lamont and Independent Oz Griebel squaring off at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. Republican Bob Stefanowski was invited to attend but declined to participate. While it was only the first debate and didn’t feature both major party candidates, some of the topics discussed give an insight into what the priorities of the candidates are regarding higher education and how those priorities could affect UConn.

To the credit of Lamont and Griebel, they both highlighted the importance of keeping college graduates in the state, where they can contribute to the economy. Lamont specifically mentioned partnering colleges and employers to help students get good-paying jobs in the workforce. Griebel took a similar tone, emphasizing that the aforementioned relationship between employers and higher education should be tightened, which he says will help reignite confidence in business in the state.

These sentiments are all well and good, but it is imperative that each candidate outlines specific policies to help with this goal and communicate those ideas to the college students of Connecticut.

From a quick perusal of each candidate’s website, Lamont mentions making his plan similar to the partnership between Pratt and Whitney and Goodwin College, where the former supports manufacturing classes at the university. Stefanowski doesn’t really mention anything about partnerships between industry and colleges, simply stating that improving the economy through his overall plan will lead to college graduates staying in Connecticut. Griebel also doesn’t mention these partnerships on his website, but does specifically target the disproportionate allotment of funding for education in some areas of the state. Overall, Lamont has the most specific proposals regarding this issue.

It will be imperative for each candidate to elaborate on their positions regarding higher education funding and job opportunities at the Sept. 26 debate here at UConn. The event will consist of Lamont and Stefanowski, while Griebel’s participation is uncertain. As funding has been slashed in recent years, gubernatorial candidates will need to have plans to alleviate student concerns that the cost of college will continue to rise in the state. Stefanowski in particular will have the most difficult task of convincing students he’s on their side as the Republican Party has generally spearheaded budgets featuring the most drastic cuts to UConn. If any of the candidates are going to try balancing the budget on the backs of students, we deserve to know. And they deserve to know what we think of that idea.