Next generation Connecticut

University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday, I mentioned that Governor Malloy was announcing a $1.5 billion investment in the University of Connecticut focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. UConn Today has more details on the plan. Here's a brief excerpt from that story:

The investments would represent one of the most ambitious programs launched at a public research university in recent years, and include the establishment of the first honors program nationwide specifically for high-achieving STEM students. The benefits would be felt throughout the state and region in the form of new jobs, research innovations, and companies.

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Some specifics of the plan include:

  • Increasing total enrollment by 6,580 (30 percent). Of those, almost 3,300 would be STEM students, including 70 percent more engineering students. About 5,000 of the students would be enrolled at the Storrs campus, and about 1,500 would attend UConn in Stamford.
  •  Revolutionizing STEM infrastructure at the Storrs campus by building facilities to house materials science, physics, biology, engineering, cognitive science, genomics studies, labs, and related disciplines. Aging infrastructure would also be updated to accommodate new faculty and students.
  • Creating the nation's premier STEM honors program, including a residential living community in which those students can share their experiences, innovative ideas, and camaraderie beyond the classrooms and labs in which they will study.
  • Relocating the Greater Hartford campus to downtown Hartford, and increasing digital media and risk management degrees at UConn-Stamford, where student housing would also be built.
  • Hiring 259 new faculty members in addition to the 290 already in the current faculty hiring plan. Of the 259 additional new faculty hires, 200 would be dedicated specifically to STEM programs. This would be on top of the 175 STEM-specific faculty members already being hired under the previously announced faculty hiring plan.

If approved by the legislature, this bold initiative will transform the university over the next decade. Not surprisingly, some legislators are skeptical about the scale and ambition of the investment.

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, a North Haven Republican, said: "I think the concept is good, but we have to look at the money. ... I understand we have to enhance these programs, but that's just a lot of money when businesses are struggling."

"Everything has to be examined before we go further on this," Fasano said.

Sen. Toni Boucher, the ranking Republican member on the legislature's higher education committee, said Malloy's proposal includes "good projects and certainly the kind of initiative to move the university even further ahead," but she questioned "the financial viability of doing this now ... I am strongly torn on this issue." (source)

Caution is reasonable, but I hope caution does not lead to a missed opportunity.

"Quite frankly this investment should have been made 10 years ago," Malloy said. "If it were made 20 years ago, our economy would be stronger today." (source)