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Provost briefs legislators on need for additional faculty

by Karen A. Grava - March 12, 2007

The University is asking the General Assembly for $22.5 million to hire 175 faculty over five years, with 35 new faculty members added each year during that period.

The plan, first proposed in 2004, and included in the University’s budget request for the upcoming biennium, was not funded in Gov. Jodi M. Rell’s proposed budget.

Provost Peter J. Nicholls, left, speaks to legislators about the University's need for additional faculty.
Provost Peter J. Nicholls, left, speaks to legislators about the University’s need for additional faculty, as President Philip E. Austin listens.
Photo by Peter Morenus

During a hearing at the Capitol Feb. 21, Provost Peter J. Nicholls told the General Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development that additional permanent faculty would enhance the student experience; further the state’s economic growth through research and workforce development; solidify the University’s growing national reputation; and maximize the investment of parents and taxpayers in the University.

The new faculty would also help the University meet its goal of reducing the faculty-student ratio to 15 to one, he said, putting the University on par with its peers.

Nicholls said the additional faculty would help increase the number of students able to graduate in four years, which would enable the University to increase its undergraduate enrollment.

This is especially important, as demand for a UConn education continues to rise. Applications have doubled in the past 10 years, while the quality and diversity of the students have also increased.

“The University’s growing reputation helps keep Connecticut’s best students in our state as well as drawing excellent students from elsewhere,” Nicholls said.

“These students frequently remain in Connecticut upon graduation and join the state’s economy.”

Undergraduate enrollment at UConn has increased from 14,667 in 1995 to 20,784 today. Not only has the size of the student body increased, so has the quality. From fall 1995 to fall 2006, average SAT scores for Storrs freshmen increased from 1113 to 1195.

At the same time, minority freshman enrollment increased by 95 percent.

And this fall’s Storrs freshman class included 98 valedictorians and salutatorians, bringing the total since 1995 to 785 across all campuses, he said.

Nicholls said the success of the planned enrollment increase has posed a challenge, however.

The student to faculty ratio (based on the U.S. News &World Report formula) has increased from 14.2 to 1 in 1995 to a high of 18.2 in 2003 following the state’s Early Retirement Incentive Program.

The ratio is now17.3:1, even though during the past two years, the University has made a number of tough reallocation decisions and was able to hire 51 additional, new full-time faculty in fall 2005 and 13 in fall 2006.

“Unfortunately, for next year, we will only have the resources to replace the positions that become vacant through retirements and resignations,” Nicholls told the legislators.

Nicholls said new faculty would also help UConn expand its contribution to the state’s economic growth.

“The numbers tell part of the story: the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis estimates that annually UConn generates nearly 38,000 jobs outside the University, leverages $800 million in private and federal investment, and adds $3.1 billion to Connecticut’s gross state product,” Nicholls said.

“UConn also contributes to the state’s well-being by conducting research that enhances Connecticut’s scientific and technological infrastructure, and by improving health care, education, and the environment.

“Our mission is to increase Connecticut’s intellectual capital,” he added, “by producing graduates of the highest quality.”

The hires would be made in areas that respond to student demand, offer greatest research opportunity, and tie in to the state’s economic development.

All 175 would be active in both instruction and research.

The plan calls for hiring 35 faculty at a cost of $4.6 million in the first year, including 15 in engineering, biology, molecular biology, pharmacy, nursing and allied health; three in business; two in education; eight in critical research areas such as stem cell research, therapeutic cloning, fuel cells, operations and business management; and seven in core areas such as English and math.

“The stature of the University of Connecticut continues to grow, and we are poised to be among the best institutions of public higher education in the country,” said Nicholls.

“Completing the implementation of the academic plan with the proposed addition of new faculty will allow the University to fulfill its mission and its promise to all of Connecticut.”

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