Q: What will the State and UConn gain from this initiative?
A: Next Generation Connecticut will result in targeted, strategic investments in UConn facilities, faculty and students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. That will fuel Connecticut’s economy with new technologies, companies, patents and licenses; more high-wage STEM jobs; and a source of highly skilled graduates to fill them. In the past decade, STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs, and the number is expected to keep growing. Connecticut needs to be in the forefront in creating those jobs and fostering home-grown talent at UConn to fill them.
Q: Why is UConn a key to this plan?
A: The State is seeking to harness the immense strengths and capabilities of the University of Connecticut, our only public research university, to drive economic development and create jobs in this state. We know how effective this can be because of how successful other states have been in doing the same thing, years ahead of us.
Q: How do you know it will create the jobs and produce the Return on Investment you say it will?
A: Thanks to the empirical evidence we now have from other states, we can reasonably estimate what the return on investment will be for Next Generation Connecticut. A variety of investments in research — by states and the federal government — have been tracked over the years. As a result, one can demonstrate with some precision just how much investments in scientific research will generate, in terms of both jobs and new revenue.
Q: How will UConn maintain its academic standards and compete for high rankings if you suddenly have to accept 6,500 more students?
A: The plan incorporates a careful growth strategy to accommodate the student population and work to attract top STEM students and other outstanding future students with new programs and initiatives. For example, the plan would enable us to create a new STEM honors program and provide STEM scholarships for the most talented STEM students.
Our growth will be over 10 years and, with our enhanced programs and new STEM initiatives, we are confident we can achieve this expansion with high-quality students who will want to matriculate at a top STEM university where they will learn from our talented faculty in our new facilities.
Q: How will UConn accommodate so many additional students?
A: Our plan includes the hiring of 259 new faculty, of which 200 will be in STEM disciplines (these new faculty will be in addition to our current program through which we will be hiring 290 faculty, 175 of whom will be in STEM). The plan will provide for the construction of STEM facilities to house material sciences, physics, biology, engineering, cognitive science, genomics, and related disciplines, including new STEM teaching laboratories. One or two new residential facilities will also be constructed, in addition to the development of an Honors STEM facility. We also plan to offer residential options for our Stamford campus students as part of this new initiative.
Q: How will you afford the financial aid costs associated with taking on that many more students?
A: We have carefully planned and included those costs in the proposal for the consideration of the governor and legislature. The STEM honors program, for example, will fund 1,400 full-tuition scholarships per year by fiscal year 2020. Our funding plan also sets aside the same percentage of tuition-funded financial aid for the new students as we do for current students.
Q: Enrollment in Connecticut schools is shrinking. Does that mean if you can’t find enough qualified Connecticut students, you will accept more out-of-state students to meet this 6,500 number?
A: We will continue to draw the majority of our students from Connecticut. In fact, our goal is that 70 percent of this increase will comprise Connecticut students. We currently enroll 13 percent of Connecticut’s high school seniors who are applying to college; our goal is to keep more of them in Connecticut by attracting them to UConn.
Q: You say this is a good fit between the Bioscience Connecticut, Jackson Labs, and Storrs Tech Park initiatives. How so?
A: The STEM components inherent in each of the initiatives will be a major draw for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. Collectively, these initiatives will make Connecticut a national center for STEM education, research and employment. The Next Generation Connecticut initiative will also give UConn students the opportunity to apply for research grants to conduct innovative STEM research, and the faculty and staff associated with Bioscience Connecticut, Jackson Labs, and the Tech Park will be a major asset for recruiting talented students and other faculty members.
Q: Shouldn’t UConn 2000 have covered all facilities upgrades?
A: Next Generation Connecticut is the next step in a vision for the future that has its roots in those earlier initiatives. The UConn 2000 initiative enabled us to focus the unprecedented State investments from 1995 through today on addressing decades of neglected infrastructure, including numerous classroom facilities, general utilities, information technology, residence halls, and other infrastructure needs.
Many science facilities were constructed, including the new Chemistry, Physics/Biology, Information Technology Engineering, Pharmacy/Biology, Marine Sciences, and Agriculture Biotechnology buildings, and others renovated, including facilities for Life Sciences, Biobehavioral Science, and Nursing. We have major projects still under way, such as our new Engineering and Psychology buildings, and the renovation of our Agricultural research facilities. Major non-science buildings were also constructed and renovated, including facilities for Education, Business, Humanities, and the Arts, in addition to facilities at each of our regional campuses. The transformation of our campuses attests to our stewardship of the funding we received.
Next Generation Connecticut will now enable us to undertake a very targeted facilities program that will add to the University’s STEM prominence while simultaneously advancing the State’s long-term economic interests. This initiative will enable UConn to provide Connecticut employers with many more STEM graduates to meet workforce demands and drive discoveries that will fuel Connecticut’s long-term economic growth. That is why funding for new infrastructure is aimed specifically at the STEM fields and will allow us to support and accommodate major increases in our STEM students and faculty.
Q: How has UConn shown a return on past investments?
A: UConn’s rise during the past 16 years has been astounding, the result of strategic State investments that were wisely used on facilities and infrastructure. Some of the returns on that investment include:
- An increase in undergraduate enrollment by 54 percent;
- The ability to recruit increasingly talented freshmen classes. This year’s freshmen are the most high-achieving in recent history based on SAT scores and, overall, incoming students’ average SAT scores increased by 120 points, to 1233, in the last 16 years;
- Undergraduate enrollment in STEM disciplines increased by 115 percent;
- Undergraduate degree conferrals grew by about 74 percent and graduate/professional degrees grew by 40 percent.
Q: Is this why UConn is seeking new water sources?
A: The University and the Town of Mansfield have long needed a more secure source of water than their relying on local wellfields. This is true notwithstanding the fact that, as a result of conservation efforts and infrastructure improvements, today UConn’s daily water usage is less than it was before the UCONN 2000 and 21st Century UConn initiatives began.
The continued advancement of UConn, coupled with key development priorities in the town of Mansfield, makes the effort to obtain a permanent, sustainable water source timely.