UConn has recently ended its Connecticut Commitment program, leading to calls for more college affordability. I believe the way to make college affordable is to increase supply. Unfortunately, many colleges are closing, especially in Vermont, which reduces supply and therefore leads to an increased price. One may raise the objection that academic standards are important, but many more people are capable of meeting college requirements than currently are admitted, demonstrated by colleges seeking non-academic criteria such as extracurriculars, volunteering and even social media thought-crime checks. That is because the modern college has largely ceased to be an educational institution and has become a sorting tool for big business, and people’s destinies are largely decided in high school or earlier. That is the problem, and reducing price for a few students without increasing overall supply doesn’t solve the problem. It merely shifts who gets opportunities rather than increasing them.
My solution instead is for UConn to buy 1 to 2 campuses in Vermont, and potentially more if more fail. UConn is currently planning on building new dorms, which would likely compete with off-campus housing rather than allowing for new students given our limited academic capacity. However, Southern Vermont College and College of St. Joseph have recently closed and buying their campuses would likely be cheaper in the short-term than building new ones. Then we could make a profit, potentially even charging extra for the new program, while still benefiting the cause of college affordability by increasing supply. If we wanted to go further, we could partner with underprivileged high schools in Connecticut and Vermont, giving them a streamlined path to admission and help with application.
For the program, I propose mainly liberal arts and scientific studies like forestry. I also think there are many opportunities to partner with other nearby universities, and its proximity to Canada could allow for an international program. UConn Vermont students could have an opportunity for a semester in Quebec, and there could also be a path to these programs through Quebec CEGEPs. Ultimately, just as at regional campuses, UConn Vermont students would come to the Storrs campus in their junior year. This would give us an advantage, as the Vermont campuses could allow for more experimental programs while still providing access to important classes and research we have at Storrs.
Another interesting thing that could be done is a road orientation. Instead of going straight to the campus, the orientation and beginning of the classes could be conducted at campsites along the way from Connecticut. For recreation, there’s nature to walk in and there would be ways to make it work for wheelchair users. Dartmouth has first-year trips, and this could be a longer version of that. Guest lectures from people living along the way could also be interesting, as many people raised in urban and suburban areas don’t really know much about the rural experience.
Another advantage this project could have is its potential to assist with the decolonization of UConn. Increasing the overall UConn building area will allow the university to give some buildings, in both Connecticut and Vermont, back to the original tribes that inhabited those territories while the increased profit from the new programs would allow us to help those tribes without a net loss in funds. The major challenge is to convince the administration, board of trustees and general assembly to think long-term rather than continuing dangerous austerity policies that have proven not to work.