This week the University of Connecticut announced that the incoming Class of 2019 was the largest incoming freshman class in university history. While 3,800 new Storrs students will help foster a stronger, more vibrant community, complications arising from adding an ever-growing freshman class annually cannot be ignored.
The University has, through new initiatives such as the Master Plan, laid out a vision of the future for the growing UConn student body. There exists a pronounced lack of adequate dormitories, parking capacity and student recreation facilities on campus. While adding new students helps to put UConn on the global map and continue the stated mission of providing world-class education in an affordable, public university setting, the room and board conflicts of exponentially growing class sizes is becoming clear.
For instance, student-parking pass lines stretch throughout the Student Union and often result in disappointment and a reliance on an already stressed bus system. Though the University has, through grants, been building new dormitories and facilities specifically for learning communities such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the large majority of UConn Storrs students will not be in one of these communities.
Though grants are becoming an increasingly important and sizeable portion of UConn’s budget, room must be made for additional students outside of specialized programs and learning and living communities. With 3,800 new freshmen arriving in Storrs this past weekend, the cramped and outdated nature of UConn’s facilities was apparent.
Though the university has an ever-increasing reach to prospective state and out-of-state students, with television ads playing throughout Connecticut, the other side of the equation needs to be considered. The university has worked to build a strong academic and athletic reputation over the past few decades, placing UConn in the top tier of American public universities. Though state-of-the-art academic facilities and outreach to students interested in specific programs, especially the sciences, has helped establish this new reputation, a poor and undersized campus infrastructure threatens to limit such progress.
Though UConn may construct the most groundbreaking learning facilities and attract the brightest students from across the state, nation and globe, there needs to be a plan to adequately house and manage this growing population. If the university cannot budget for a rapidly growing population, then slowing the student population growth to match the university’s ability to update facilities and infrastructure may be the appropriate option.
The university needs to look at the growth of incoming classes from all aspects, keeping the campus’ infrastructure in mind as a potential limiting factor towards student population growth.