Recently, there was a protest to raise the budget for the University of Connecticut; however, I believe that the problem of not having needed resources is not a lack of funding, but a bloated institution. On the construction front, the new South residence hall is being built at a lower density than traditional dorms so higher costs can be set, even as many students deal with high rents off campus. The mindset I see is that these things are good and students like them, but it must be remembered that the money comes from somewhere and there is a potential that some students can’t afford to attend this university because of it.
Financial aid is one way to redirect the costs, but the fact is that money is still coming from the taxpayers and people who are trying to donate for the cause of education at a time where there are serious issues including homelessness, inadequate medical coverage, diseases that need to be researched and many more. Using this money to make an elite university even more elite is irresponsible — and so would be raising taxes on the already overtaxed Connecticut middle class to pay that way. Taxing the rich could work, but many are already leaving the state due to high taxes.
The next problem is that the university is physically too big. It has locations across the entire state, many of which would be more effectively served in other ways. The Storrs, Hartford and Avery Point campuses are in the same general part of the state, but the others are far away, so they should be spun off. UConn Health, for instance, has its own budget, which the governor wants to merge in spite of the desires of the university administration otherwise. One solution would be to give it to Central Connecticut State University, as their main campus is much closer to UConn Health’s hospital and med school, so their resources could be easily accessible to medical students and faculty. Next is the farthest campus in Stamford. This is under 15 miles from Purchase College, and merging the two could create a powerful college for the northern NYC suburbs, and save the states of Connecticut and New York money by merging services. Finally, the Waterbury campus should be given to the Golden Hills Paugussett, as the university has already acknowledged that its land is the territory of indigenous tribes, and should uphold its responsibilities by returning some of it.
These logistical problems are an issue, but the main problem I see with UConn is actually in the mindset of the administration of becoming “elite.” UConn was created as a land-grant institution, and while that process was reliant on the seizure of indigenous land to be sold by the university, it did have the goal of making land-grant colleges places where the working classes of the states could educate themselves. By trying to get more money, become elite and attract the most talented students from across the country and the world, the administration has betrayed the initial promise of the land-grant public colleges — one where everyone in the state has the ability to raise their station and knowledge in life affordably, where the wisdom of humanity is accessible to all who want it, not just a expensively-trained elite. Agriculture and technical education regarding tools accessible to the masses, rather than how to use proprietary software, were rightly promoted in the Morrill Act because they are how rural people could stay prosperous and self-reliant. In these fields one can create what one needs, as it is not whom one knows or what one believes that matters, but the eternal laws of nature and physics, and if one can understand those one can succeed — an extremely American concept and one the university should continue to focus on.