UConn’s housing additions to Stamford campus seems wasteful

After some debate and trouble finding the proper contracting firm, the University of Connecticut is finally going through with plans to implement university-sanctioned housing in Stamford. The project was commissioned by Gov. Dannel Malloy – Stamford’s former mayor – to give the city its own residential university. The expected budget is roughly $10 million, but is subject to change amid contract negotiations.

The desire to add housing in the city coincides with the university’s desire to expand the number of shorter, 50-minute classes a week and align scheduling more with the Storrs branch, including adding Friday classes starting January 2016. For a school predominately consisting of commuters who relish the three days at the end of the week to earn some money (which in turn supplements the travel costs), many are upset at the changes and the inconveniences they will inevitably bring.

The administration appears to be interested in taking a branch campus generally tailored to commuters and part-time students and are aspired to create an offshoot of Storrs. However, Stamford and Storrs function much differently. Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that of Storrs’ 18,000 students, only three percent attend part-time. Conversely, a quarter of the students at Stamford are part-time, reconciling both school and the more pressing need to work.

While living in accessible housing will take a lot of the pressure off of commuting, that’s not really the point. Most people go to the commuter branches like Stamford to avoid the costs of room and board; it’s a much cheaper alternative to Storrs. Some people may subscribe to the new housing if the benefit of being closer to campus outweighs the costs of travel and time-commitment, but most will likely be put-off at the price of rent and the notion of being uprooted from their families. Again, it’s a violation of the commuter ethos, for better or worse.

Another problem this poses, particularly in an ever-growing city like Stamford, is the space. With housing comes the necessity of parking, and in the original proposal, a garage development across the street from the campus would have needed to provide approximately 650 more spaces for students. In executing this, the likely zoning difficulties that would ensue would probably lead to more delays.

Above all, the UConn administration ought to realize that there is no demand from anyone in this endeavor but itself. What appears to be a “gold mine” for the university will involve turning the purpose of the Stamford branch on its head, and that is tremendously unfair to the students.