In the past few years, the growth of the University of Connecticut Stamford campus has been receiving a lot of attention. The university and the city of Stamford have celebrated its impressive growth, often citing the 23 percent growth in applications and the addition of hundreds of student housing units in sought-after downtown Stamford. While the addition of housing and growth in student population have been positive, there has been little to no progress on the issues that truly impact students, such as limited course options, limited classroom space and poor course scheduling. The investment in the Stamford campus is focused on the profitability of attracting students to an urban campus, rather than on investing in students once they arrive on campus. If UConn truly believes in regional campus students, then the administration should invest in programs that will trickle-down and benefit students, even if it is less profitable than building housing units.
While it is no secret that universities are first and foremost businesses, regional campus students have benefited little from the university’s business model. This can be partly explained by a phenomenon that has existed at UConn for decades: the belief that Storrs is superior to the regional campuses. From faculty to students, I have heard over and over that students of the regional campuses are less intelligent or less hard-working than students at the Storrs campus. The first step towards investing in regional campus students is to go from believing this false narrative to believing in the potential of regional campus students.
Investing in regional campus students is synonymous with investing in communities of color, low-income communities and first-generation students. This is due to the financial accessibility of regional campuses since they are significantly more affordable than the Storrs campus, which translates into a more diverse student population. For example, 55 percent of Stamford students are students of color and 45 percent are first-generation. By comparison, only 35 percent of Storrs students are students of color and even less are first-generation. Additionally, many of the regional campus students work full-time, while others take care of their families or serve in the army, and still others serve the community as elected officials.
Investing in regional campus students goes beyond building housing units to attract more students. This is particularly true in Stamford, where students constantly have to choose one course over another and wait an additional semester to enroll in a required course. UConn administrators should take into account how course options, classroom space and scheduling have created issues for current students before attracting new students. This will ensure that those issues are not exacerbated by a larger student population.
In Stamford, the most impactful investment UConn can make is to add another building to accommodate its growing student population and the need for more classes and space. It is important to note that UConn-Stamford has been based in the same building since 1998. Adding a new building to the UConn-Stamford campus is an example of an investment in regional campus students because it will directly benefit students by opening up space for more classes and university resources. At a large and prestigious public university like UConn, regional campus students should feel empowered by the plethora of resources offered, rather than limited because they are not at the flagship campus.
As investment continues throughout UConn in housing units and recreational centers, regional campus students cannot help but wonder how the university is investing in them. One thing is clear: UConn should believe and invest in regional campus students.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @uconnstamford Instagram
Michael Hernandez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.