Testimony
Appropriations Committee
President Philip E. Austin
University of Connecticut
February 15, 2005

Good morning. I am Philip Austin, President of the University of Connecticut. I am proud to be here to represent UConn— high quality, affordable, successful—at a time when education and research mean so much to our state’s future.

In designating job growth as a key goal for her administration, Governor Rell has also defined education—beginning in early childhood—as the foundation of her economic development vision. The state of Connecticut and its municipalities together invest an average of more than $130,000 in a student in the course of that child’s education, preschool through grade 12. To allow that investment to leave the state upon high school graduation undermines sound economic strategy; simply stated, for every Connecticut student who stays here for college, the state builds on its prior investment and grows its potential workforce.

The University of Connecticut contributes mightily to our state’s economic growth. The numbers tell part of the story: the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis documents that annually UConn generates nearly 38,000 jobs outside the University (in addition to the 10,000 people we employ), leverages $800 million in private and federal investment, and adds $3.1 billion to Connecticut’s gross state product. 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—not to mention cultural and athletic offerings that engage the hearts and minds of citizens statewide.

This is a success story for which you are responsible. Since the enactment of UCONN 2000, UConn has seen record student enrollment and record academic profiles. Since 1995, freshman enrollment at the main campus is up 61%, freshman minority enrollment is up 77%, and SAT scores are up 64 points. Valedictorian/salutatorian enrollment was 40 in 1995; this year’s entering class included 91 at Storrs. 35% of this year’s freshman class ranked in the top 10% of their high school class. Today, freshman retention is at 90%, and freshman minority retention at 89%. The 6-year graduation rate for all students, stands at 71% (we are 21 st among public research universities in the most recent ranking), and 67% for minority students (12 th in the most recent ranking).

Applications to the main campus have gone from 9,874 in 1995 to 18,467 in 2004, an increase of 87%. Applications are a measure of the attractiveness of UConn in terms of quality and affordability. This is the competitive marketplace at work. You will see more information in a moment about how UConn’s charges compare to those of our top competitors, those schools to which the bulk of our applicants also apply. Suffice it to say that for FY 2005 the in-state charge (tuition, fees, room and board) is $14,894, approximately 50% to 60% of what a Connecticut student is charged at the public universities on the list, and approximately 37% to 45% of the charge at the private schools.

Has our price gone up over time? Yes, but so has our financial assistance to needy students. We estimate that total financial aid expenditures will reach $208 million in FY ’05. The Department of Higher Education requires us to set aside 15% of our gross tuition revenue for need-based aid, but UConn in fact devotes nearly 18%. In total, 37% of our gross tuition revenue is spent on financial aid. We are spending an additional $5.4 million in aid for FY ’05 over FY ’04. Approximately 75% of UConn students (undergraduate and graduate) receive some form of financial support. We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that no high achieving student is denied a UConn education for financial reasons. Finally, our price is competitive and our financial aid is substantial, so it should be no surprise that our students graduate with less debt than their peers. A Connecticut student graduates from UConn with $2,000 less in debt than the New England public university average.

In fact, for the larger context, I bring to your attention to a national study conducted by Dr. Thomas G. Mortenson, Senior Scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. Dr. Mortenson ranked the 50 state flagship universities according an “equity index” which is used as an indicator of institutional commitment to serving low income students. We are proud to report that UConn ranked 5 th on the list of 50, and showed the greatest improvement of schools on Dr. Mortenson’s index over the last decade.

We present to you today, as we do every year, a great deal of empirical evidence demonstrating UConn’s affordability. In addition, we have surveys of students who were accepted but chose not to attend UConn, as well as students who leave us prior to graduation. The survey data make clear that cost is not a driving factor in their decisions. We have a need-blind admissions process. If any student is being denied a place at UConn now, it is because of academic competition, not price.

Our price is very competitive, but price without quality is no value at all. The deeper truth of this success story is that our students come to us because of the value of a UConn education. It is quality that keeps them with us. And, much as we enjoy having them with us, the extraordinary demand for a UConn acceptance letter is moving us to focus as never before on seeing to it that they graduate in four years.

We have recently embarked on an effort called “Finish in Four.” This initiative will combine increased academic counseling, course and scheduling adjustments and other support systems to help ensure that our students graduate in four years as a matter of course. While our students on average graduate in 4.4 years compared to the national average of 4.7, and our 6 year graduation rate is high among the nation’s public universities, the goal for almost all of our students should be completing a degree in four years. Ensuring that students can graduate in four years will make better use of state operating and capital resources, enable more students to take advantage of a UConn education—and, not insignificantly, save parents and students the costs associated with the need for an extra semester or more. This should make UConn’s already competitive price into an even bigger bargain for Connecticut parents.

The key to the “Finish in Four” initiative—indeed, the key to everything we do—is our faculty. While student enrollment has skyrocketed, over the past decade, our faculty size has increased only 4.5%. Our ability to continue to enrich the educational experience of our undergraduates and, equally important, strengthen our research and scholarly activity is dependent upon our having the financial wherewithal to expand our faculty ranks. Our goals are clear: enhance the quality of 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 all taxpayers by ensuring that students can graduate in four years. We are committed to access and we are committed to quality. Both require resources.

Another area in which we have made great strides is in private fundraising. Once again, our success is directly attributable to the encouragement and incentive you have been providing. The State Matching Grant provides one state dollar for every two dollars donated to our endowment to support student scholarships, professorships and program enhancements. Having raised only modest sums prior to the grant’s inception, today we operate a maturing development program that is establishing an impressive record of achievement. Since 1995, our endowment has quintupled, and just last year we raised $75 million with an alumni giving participation rate of 24%, one of the highest percentages among public universities in the nation. Our first major capital campaign ended this past summer having secured gifts and commitments totaling $471 million, greatly surpassing our $300 million goal. Planning for our next campaign has already begun, and the State Matching Grant has, and hopefully will continue, to provide us with a critical advantage in the competition for private philanthropy. This program has been achieving the goals articulated when you enacted it, and we thank you for honoring your commitment to our donors and to those of the other public colleges and universities.

The Health Center remains an area of great pride for the University. In an era when health care is experiencing both unlimited expectations and unprecedented financial stress, the Health Center has amassed a record of accomplishment in education, research and clinical care while achieving a remarkable financial turnaround. In a few minutes, Dr. Peter Deckers, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, UConn Health Center, Dean, UConn School of Medicine, will highlight these accomplishments and the Health Center’s ongoing challenges.

Let me first ask Lorraine Aronson, the University’s Chief Financial Officer, to discuss information contained in our materials concerning the University’s projected current services shortfall. After both presentations conclude, we will be happy to answer questions.

Thank you.

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