UConn Applications Climb; Board of Regents Makes Commitments on Remediation at White House Summit

Who is attending college in Connecticut – and who is not – was the central topic of conversation in Storrs and at the White House Thursday.

At a White House summit on expanding college opportunity, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (ConnSCU) system was among more than three dozen colleges, universities and systems issuing promises of specific policy steps to be taken to improve college access and completion rates, with a particular focus on low-income students.   Connecticut Board of Regents President Gregory W. Gray was among those in attendance.

As part of the day-long summit, the White House released a 90-page “Commitments to Action” summary that included new commitments from over 100 colleges and universities and 40 organizations “to build on their existing efforts.”  The steps the institutions will be taking follow calls from President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others to improve higher education opportunity in the United States, in response to the nation’s diminishing standing compared with other nations.

As education, business awhite hosuend nonprofit officials were meeting in Washington, the University of Connecticut, the state’s flagship institution, announced that the number of high school students seeking admission to UConn’s Storrs campus next fall has jumped significantly over last year’s figures, comprising a pool of potential freshmen with even higher average SAT scores and more diversity than previous years’ applicants.

More than 29,500 students applied as of Wednesday’s due date, a 10 percent increase over last year’s number, according to UConn officials. The number of minority applicants also increased by 16 percent – described as an important consideratiouconn-new-logon in UConn’s commitment to diversity.   Officials pointed out that the jump in UConn applications runs counter to national and regional trends in which declines in the number of high school graduates have caused many universities to see their applications and enrollments level off or decrease.

Enrollment Moving in Opposite Directions

The Board of Regents system – which includes more than 90,000 students attending the state’s 17 public colleges and universities (except UConn, which is outside the system) – has seen the largest drop in students among the state’s public and private higher education sectors. At Connecticut's four state universities (Central, Eastern, Southern, Western), enrollment was down 2.2 percent to 34,062 this year compared to 2012, reflecting the continued losses in the number of part-time graduate students. Enrolllogo-connscument at the community colleges fell 2.1 percent to 56,977, reflecting losses in both full and part time students.

Full-time undergraduate enrollment among member institutions of the private Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC) rose by nearly 2.5 percent this past fall. In fact, nine of the 16 CCIC member institutions had an increase in enrollment and five of these institutions hit new enrollment records: Goodwin College, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, University of New Haven, and the University of Saint Joseph. In contrast, only five of twenty three public institutions showed an increase in enrollment.CCIC

According to Thursday’s newly released White House document, “Connecticut commits to planning an evaluation of pilot data to assess and improve upon efforts to implement remediation redesign throughout post-secondary institutions in the state.  Efforts will support improvements to remediation curriculum and practices on campuses.”  One of the panel discussion Thursday in Washington D.C. focused on the remediation issue, in which students graduating high school but not quite ready for college have traditionally taken non-credit bearing courses to prepare for college.

Focus on Remediation

The Connecticut legislature in 2012 passed a new law that requires public colleges to embed remedial education in credit-bearing courses, with extra tutoring and assistance for students who need remedial help. The bill had concerned some faculty at the institutions, who felt that abolishing all remedial classes would be unworkable, considering the learning deficiencies of some incoming students. Beginning with the Fall 2014 semester, the new law allows institutions to offer a student no more than one semester of non-embedded remedial support.

Connecticut wiCommitments to Actionll be hosting two upcoming events focusing on the remediation issue, the White House report indicated:

  • A“Multiple Measures Summit,” which will offer information and applicability of various methods of placement assessment for consideration of state community colleges and universities.
  • A “Remediation Conference,” which “will serve as an opportunity for state-wide collaboration outlining best practices of the piloting of intensive, embedded and transitional remedial education initiatives.  Data results will be shared along with ideas for scalability.”

The “Commitments to Action” document also notes that “The Board of Regents is currently conducting 139 pilots consisting of both math and English, intensive and embedded programming across the 17 ConnSCU institutions… Data will be analyzed by institution and system faculty/administration to highlight challenges for adaptation and strengths for duplication.”   It has been estimated that by 2020, 70 percent of Connecticut’s jobs will require post-secondary education.

Among UConn’s larger applicant pool, several stand-out programs – including engineering, business, digital media, and allied health sciences – are among the disciplines that saw significant increases in interest from the potential new UConn students who applied for admission.  With substantial financial support from the Governor and state legislature, UConn is investing in new faculty, updating its academic plan, and planning for the Next Generation Connecticut initiative to revolutionize its STEM (science, technology, engineering acollege enrollmentnd math) curricula.

UConn will begin notifying this year’s applicants with offers of admissions starting March 1, with the targeted new class of Storrs freshmen estimated to be around 3,550 students. The number of applicants has more than doubled since 2001, when the University received about 13,600 applications.

UConn’s Next Generation Connecticut initiative, a $1.5 billion 10-year state-funded investment, is expected to attract $270 million in research dollars, $527 million in new business activity, and fund the hiring of 259 new faculty members and the enrollment of an additional 6,580 undergraduate students, as well as the construction of new labs and facilities, expansion of digital media and risk management degree programs and development of student housing at UConn’s Stamford campus.

President Obama has set a goal of having the United States achieve the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.  The U.S., which was once ranked #1 in the world, has fallen from the top 10, and current projections indicate that decent will continue without corrective actions, such as those outlined by participants in the White House-led effort.

First McCarthy and Comey, Now Schwartz and Handelsman: Four CT Nominees for Obama Administration

All roads have been leading to Connecticut lately as President Obama has sought top talent for his administration.  Among key Presidential appointments announced by the White House last week was Linda Spoonster Schwartz, as nominee for Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Policy and Planning, in the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Schwartz is the fourth Connecticut resident and second who previously led a Connecticut agency, to be nominated recently by President Obama.

Linda Schwartz, a disabled veteran, has led the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs through Republican and Democratic administrations since 2003.  She concurrently serves as an Associate Clinical Professor of Nursing at the Yale School of Nursing, where she has been on Faculty since 1999 and was appointed Associate Research Scientist and Scholar.  From 1980 to 1993, she taught at several University and College Schools of Nursing and held leadership roles in Nursing organizations in Connecticut. Her nomination was sent to the Senate for confirmation on Aug. 1.

The White House alwhite hosueso announced last week that President Obama intends to nominate Jo Handelsman of Yale University as Associate Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy.

 Dr. Jo Handelsman is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, a position she has held since 2010.  Previously, she served on the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty as a Professor in Plant Pathology from 1985 to 2009 and Professor and Chair of the Department of Bacteriology from 2007 to 2009.

“The extraordinary dedication these individuals bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people.  I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this Administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come,” President Obama said in the formal announcement.

On July 17, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Gina McCarthy as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  McCarthy, gina-mccarthywhose nomination was held up for a time amidst political wrangling in Congress, has served as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection  prior to heading to Washington to join the EPA as assistant administrator earlier in the administration. McCarthy, is a 25-year veteran of state and local government in New England where she worked for Republicans including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell.

The Boston Globe reported that the newly confirmed McCarthy told an audience at Harvard Law School that cutting carbon pollution will “feed the economic agenda of this country” and vowed to work with industry leaders on shaping policies aimed at curbing global warming.

In June, the President nominated James B. Comey, Jr., of Westport, to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a term of ten years.  Comey was confirmed as the seventh director of the FBI on July 29 by a vote of 93-1 in the Senate.  He served in the Justice Department official in the Bush administration.

“To know Jim Comey is also to know his fierce independence and his deep integrity,” Obama said in making the nomination. “He’s that rarity in Washington sometimes: He doesn’t care about politics, he only cares about getting the job done. At key moments, when it’s mattered most,president-obama-nominates-james-comey-as-the-next-fbi-director he joined Bob in standing up for what he believed was right.”

Before serving as deputy attorney general, Comey was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he helped bring down the Gambino crime family, and served as the managing assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, according to news reports.Handlesman

Handelsman is currently President of the American Society for Microbiology.  In 2011, Dr. Handelsman received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring.  From 2002 to 2010, Dr. Handelsman was the Director of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching.  In 2004, Dr. Handelsman co-founded the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology.  She received a B.S. from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Handelsman will help advise President Barack Obama on the impact of science on both international and domestic affairs.  “This is an enormous opportunity that I felt I just could not pass up,” she told the Yale  News.

“In addition to being a superb biologist, Jo Handelsman is nationally recognized as an exceptional mentor of young scientists and an effective champion for increasing diversity in the scientific work force,” Steven Girvin, deputy provost for science & technology at Yale told the News. “Her energetic devotion to improving science education is of critical importance to the nation.”

LindaSpoonsterSchwartzU.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal released a statement calling Schwartz "a champion of veterans and a national star."  From 1979 to 1980, Schwartz was a caseworker in the Office of the Field Director of the American Red Cross at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany.  Dr. Schwartz served in the United States Air Force (USAF) Nurse Corps from 1968 to 1986, both on Active Duty and as a Reservist.  She retired as a Flight Nurse Instructor, with the rank of Major after sustaining injuries in a USAF Air Craft accident.

In 2001, she served on the Board of Directors of the American Nurses Association and was elected to the American Academy of Nursing.  From 1996 to 2000, she served as a Member and Chair of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.  She received a B.S. from the University of Maryland, an MSN from Yale University School of Nursing, and a Dr.P.H from the Yale University School of Medicine.