Study: UConn had $3.4 billion economic impact on Connecticut in 2014

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy sits during a meeting with University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst in his office at the State Capitol on Feb. 2, 2011, to discuss UConn's role in the state's economic development. (Office of Governor Dan Malloy/Flickr)

UConn is a growing gold mine for the state of Connecticut, according to one new study.

Consulting agency TrippUmbach provided glowing numbers recently regarding UConn’s statewide economic effect, which means the Connecticut dollars that are generated due to UConn's presence.

The university and all its branches have a $3.4 billion economic impact on Connecticut in the past year. UConn generated $202.5 million in state and local tax revenue, supported 24,325 jobs, produced $11.80 per single state-funded dollar, and is responsible for one of every 90 jobs in Connecticut.

UConn’s research has a $373.3 million economic impact on the state, and has created 2,081 jobs. The main campus, Storrs, has an impact of $1.7 billion on the state, UConn Health $1.5 billion, the Hartford campus $102 million, the Avery Point Campus $43 million, the Stamford campus $25 million, the Waterbury campus $17 million and the Torrington campus $6 million.

The report found that UConn grads working in Connecticut earned a total of $55.8 billion in income. Over $50 million has been raised and/or spent on charitable donations and volunteer activities as well. UConn’s outreach programs from their schools of Health, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Engineering are attempts to connect with Connecticut residents presumably unaffiliated with UConn.

“With major initiatives to expand and enhance its campuses, UConn’s local benefits will only multiply,” the report said.

One of these projects is the Bioscience Connecticut Initiative, which has a lot to do with UConn banking on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. It’s an investment in new buildings, meaning construction jobs, as well as “sustainable economic growth based on bioscience research, innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization,” as stated on its website.

UConn president Susan Herbst emphasized the fact that UConn is not done building on its recent success.

“It’s gratifying to know that the work our faculty, staff, and students do every day has such a direct impact on the lives of Connecticut residents,” Herbst said. “But this is only the beginning of what we’re capable of achieving.”

Signs of development and advancement are everywhere. A large research building, a new residence area for science, engineering and math students and a 3,400-foot road to join UConn's new technology park to Route 44, are all huge expenditures focusing on STEM that have been approved recently.

Herbst and Gov. Dannel Malloy have opted for STEM research to be UConn’s calling card in becoming a top public university. Malloy expects money from the state’s $1.5 billion investment in UConn over the next ten years to be funneled back into the Connecticut economy, hopefully at the $11.80 per dollar clip or higher that UConn is already operating at. For Malloy and Herbst, STEM is UConn’s and Connecticut’s great hope.

“…the big picture is that UConn has to boost its research performance,” Herbst said. “There’s no other way to get ahead.”

This is why a $162 million “innovation partnership building” for research is soon to be built. This is why a $105 million dollar dormitory is being built expressly for STEM students. UConn will also be hiring new professors, “The majority of whom will be in the STEM disciplines,” building a “premier STEM Honors program,” and expanding enrollment, expanding buildings and repairing and rebuilding others.

In 1998, UConn was ranked 38th out of the nation’s public universities. Its ranking is now 19th. 

“One of UConn’s major areas of focus right now is helping the state’s economy grow so our students will stay in Connecticut and build their careers and families here,” UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Almost 60 percent of our students currently stay in Connecticut, but we know that number will be higher as more jobs are created in STEM fields and our students graduate with the skills to compete for those positions.”

There have been a great many essays lamenting the destruction of the humanities in education. But shunning the humanities in deference to STEM is profitable.

“Parents don't read to their children as much, K-12 humanities teachers are not as well-trained as STEM ones, federal funding for international education is down 41% over four years, and many college students graduate without being able to write clearly,” reads a Business Insider article. “The result is not only relatively fewer humanities majors but also a generation of students who get out of school and don't know how to write well or express themselves clearly."

At Purdue University, a beloved garden is being demolished in favor of a behemoth research facility. This is a microcosm of a national conversation. As Fredrik deBoer writes in the New York Times Magazine:

“Piece by piece, every corner of the average campus is being slowly made congruent with a single, totalizing vision…Indeed, this is the very lifeblood of corporatism: creating systems and procedures that sacrifice the needs of humans to the needs of institutions.”

Rietz, and UConn administrators, see UConn’s surge and accumulating economic power differently.

“Retaining well-educated alumni in our state is especially important now as Connecticut’s overall population has been shifting,” Reitz said. “We don’t want to lose that talent to another state; we need to help build Connecticut’s economy so we can keep those former students – and their children – right here.”

Do UConn’s motivations stem from bettering the institution itself, or the people it serves?

“Meanwhile, a new generation of students has become acclimated to the experience of college as luxury resort hotel, one they will pay for in student loans for the rest of their lives,” deBoer writes. “The colleges themselves, motivated by only the desire to please their alumni and their boards by advancing in the relentless competition up the rankings, cannot conceive of a world beyond the viewbook.”


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.