Enrollment Plan Caps Storrs
Freshmen Class at 3,200
Regional Growth to Continue
By Karen A. Grava
Freshmen enrollment at the Storrs campus has increased so significantly over the last five years that it will be maintained at about 3,200 students for the next few years, but incoming classes at the regional campuses will grow 33 percent by 2007, according to Chancellor John D. Petersen.
Speaking at a Board of Trustees meeting at the Greater Hartford Campus, Petersen said overall enrollment will grow from 25,000 now to 27,000 in the next five years, through increases not only in regional campus enrollment but in graduate enrollment as well.
Regional campus enrollment will grow by 1,125 students by fall 2007, he said, noting that staff have been hired specifically to recruit students appropriate for each regional campus.
"We have begun offering a number of new academic programs at the regional campuses that are very attractive to students," Petersen said. "This year alone, we've had a nearly 22 percent increase of freshmen at the regionals, and it is clear that some students, especially students who don't want to leave home, or can't leave home for a variety of reasons, are targeting them as their first-choice location."
The regional campuses have benefited, he said, not only from new programs, but also from improved infrastructure and better articulation agreements with community technical colleges.
The overall enrollment target of 25,000 students set by the trustees three years ago was met this year - three years ahead of schedule. At Storrs, freshmen enrollment has increased 58 percent since fall 1995, while at the regionals, it has grown 27 percent. During that time, more than 390 high school valedictorians and salutatorians have enrolled at the University, including 33 at the regional campuses.
Quality has improved as well, with SAT scores up nearly 40 points over the last five years. Average SAT scores for Storrs freshmen are 1149. At the same time, more than a quarter of the freshmen who enrolled last year were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, and more than half were in the top quarter of their high school graduating class.
Enrollment must be "right-sized," Petersen said, to ensure that students will receive the high-quality educational experience they have a right to expect, including an adequate number of classes, excellent academic support services, and a satisfying residential experience.
The University must provide broad access for Connecticut students, but there is also room for students from other states and abroad, Petersen said. "This is consistent with our identity as a leading American university and the assurance of excellence in academic and student life programs."
The enrollment issue is also a financial issue, since students pay only one third of their academic costs and only a half of their overall costs. State funds and funds raised through private philanthropy, research grants, enterprise efforts, and auxiliary services provide the balance.
The planning assumption that the state's economic future will lead to level state funding prompted the strategy to manage enrollment growth through fall 2007, Petersen said.
The chancellor told the trustees that increased financial aid, funded by tuition, has ensured that no student's education will be denied or hampered because of financial need. "We have reduced the average indebtedness of graduates from $16,800 to $14,400 in the past two years, and eliminated the unmet need gap for the neediest in-state students," he said.
Petersen also reported that the freshman retention rate has increased from 87 to 89 percent in Storrs, and that the six-year graduation rate has increased from 68 to 70 percent since 1995. The University ranks in the top 20 among public universities in terms of both elements. He noted that graduation rates are measured at the six-year mark nationally, to allow time for students in double majors, study abroad, co-op programs, internships, and rigorous academic programs to complete their degrees.
He added that UConn students take an average of 4.4 years to graduate, compared with 4.7 years nationally.