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We are committed to recruitment efforts
November 30, 1998
As this is written, thousands of Connecticut's high school seniors, like their counterparts across the country, are at varying stages in the college application process. For many of them the activity represents a unique combination - part clerical chore, part rite of passage. For most, it forces a painstaking consideration of goals, objectives, weaknesses and talents, leading to what may well be the first truly adult decision they will ever make. For more than a few, this is a time of anxiety unequaled by anything that has come before.
Students in Connecticut do have one major advantage over 12th graders in some other states. The presence in Connecticut of an excellent, affordable public research university represents an asset of high value to all the state's residents, and particularly to our most ambitious and eager young people. As faculty and administrators we are responsible for protecting that asset, and the enhancement of its value is the fundamental objective of our ongoing transformation.
This is important not just for the University but for the state as a whole. When I arrived here in 1996, I was shocked to learn that despite the many excellent colleges and universities in Connecticut, we rank 49th among the 50 states in the proportion of students who pursue their college education in other states, with a departure rate in excess of 50 percent. Some of those students return after graduation, but a significant number build their lives and careers in the states where they earn their college degrees. For a state whose economic viability depends on the growth of a highly educated workforce, this "brain drain" is a very serious situation indeed. Geographic distance drives parents and their adult children apart and deprives Connecticut' s economy of the contributions of productive citizens.
Thus we take very seriously our responsibility to attract increasing numbers of the state's most ambitious students to UConn. This is essentially a public information challenge - since we know for certain that when students, parents and high school guidance counselors see the substance of what we offer here, the numbers will follow. This was, in fact, very much the case this past year: as most Advance readers know, the quality of our program coupled with the strength of our recruitment efforts produced a 17 percent increase in the number of freshmen (in a year when Connecticut's high school graduates increased by less than 2 percent), an eight-point rise in median SAT scores, and a 27 percent increase in the number of minority freshmen.
This is a good start and we are expanding our outreach programs this year. Thus far more than 7,000 prospective students have visited the Storrs campus, a 29 percent increase over the same period last year. In 1997-98 we offered merit-based scholarships to 793 freshmen; that number went up to 1,665 this fall, and we expect an equally impressive pool of candidates next September. In my inaugural speech in 1997, I said that "no talented individual should ever be prevented from attending this state's premier public University on the basis of economic need." Six major freshman scholarship programs are making that goal a reality.
Our recruitment success will yield benefits for Connecticut's economy; that is beyond doubt. But even more important, it will enable the University to fulfill more dramatically our fundamental mission of serving as a center of intellectual excellence for young people from all corners of the state, from all social and ethnic groups and all levels of economic status.
What links our expanding student population is not some surface set of demographic characteristics, but innate talent and eagerness to grow. The more effective we are in attracting students with those traits to our campuses, the truer we are to our fundamental mission and the more effective we are in meeting the needs of our state.