Joe's note: The following is one of the occasional stories we run here written by newswriting and reporting students at the University of New Haven.
UNH swimming against the tide of recession
“The wealthiest universities, among them Harvard and Yale, have begun cutting spending, canceling new building plans and upgrades, and putting a halt to hiring new staff.”
-- Geoff Maslen, reporter for University World News
By Lisa Scranton
Special to the “J4” blog
WEST HAVEN (December 14, 2008) -- The University of New Haven began a round of program improvements on campus long before the recession hit. So in a time when higher-education institutions across the country are struggling with budgets, these improvements may be a life preserver.
Lower endowment values, rising costs and peaking enrollment are making private and public colleges very nervous.
UNH President Steve Kaplan framed the issue recently in a letter to university staff and faculty.
“While many of us have been through other economic downturns, what distinguishes this from anything in our lifetimes is that in addition to world financial markets plummeting, access to credit is limited in unprecedented ways,” he wrote. “This combination of events in the financial markets will most likely have a very negative impact on our enrollment over the next few years."
Kaplan said that any shortfall in enrollments “will almost certainly be exacerbated by declining funding from private and foundation gifts and by higher interest rates.
“ Notwithstanding those events that are out of our control, we must continue to provide our students with the high-quality education and services they expect from us. It will thus be imperative that we do not allow our own personal fears or frustrations during these economically tumultuous times to adversely affect the experience our students have at UNH.”
UNH is being cautious in these dangerous waters, but instead of cutting back on staff or just treading water, the university has developed novel ways to generate funds by building bridges to areas in need.
• UNH reunited with ELS, an English-as-a-second-language service, for international students who want to improve their English-language skills.
“This will improve our ability to attract students who do not yet have the proficiency in English that they need to succeed,” says Joe Spellman, the university’s director of International Admissions.
ELS coordinates its operations through the University College and leases space from UNH.
“This opens the door to expanding our international recruitment, gives us a greater international presence, and provides greater visibility to our undergraduate and graduate programs. It’s terrific that we have them back,” said Art Goon, dean of University College.
• UNH now provides academic oversight for the GlobalCampus programs. Students at two centers received UNH transcripts this spring; the long-term plan is that all GlobalCampus center students will. The bulk of students enroll in the programs by approaching and paying CEA directly, which in turn enrolls students through UNH so they can receive UNH transcripts. UNH receives a fee per student for which it provides a transcript.
"The University of New Haven has a strong faculty, imaginative leadership, experience in developing a technology-rich environment and a major interest in international education," says CEA CEO Brian Boubek. "We envision a true partnership in which UNH maintains the control of all the academic processes and policies, which are at the heart of its mission." http://www.gowithcea.com/
• Collaboration between the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and UNH began in September to house the administrative offices of NHSO on campus for two academic years. NHSO Music Director William Boughton and symphony members will work with the UNH Music Department to develop a campus concert series featuring contemporary American composers; teach "master" classes on selected topics; provide student internships; and find other opportunities for collaboration. The NHSO leases the space from the University. http://www.newhavensymphony.com/
• New Haven community officials and staff from UNH worked together to create the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, which opened in September.
The primary focus of the school is to prepare graduates for pursuing education and careers in scientific, engineering and technology fields. The school will provide students from 12 area towns in grades 6 through 12 with a math/science curriculum designed to prepare them for a demanding high school program at the school, and offer an "early college" program to high school students, awarding simultaneous high school and college credit.
"It is clear that in order to keep this region competitive there needs to be concerted and collaborative effort to prepare students for global competition," Kaplan said, noting that UNH will create "a significant scholarship program for the students who attend the University of New Haven Science and Engineering Magnet School."
The Engineering and Science University Magnet School will grow by one grade each year for seven years, with an eventual total enrollment of 616 students. It will be housed in West Haven in a building designed and constructed through the $1.5 billion New Haven Citywide School Construction Program. www.nhps.net/IDM/SEU/
• UNH became a member of the Northeast-10 Conference in July.
• Charger Football will be reinstated as a varsity sport in fall 2009 and become the school's 18th varsity program.
Debbie Chin, director of Athletics said, “We’re extremely excited to be bringing football back to the UNH community. The university administration and the staff in the Department of Athletics have put a tremendous amount of work into this process and everyone should be commended for their efforts in making this happen.” http://www.northeast10.org/
Dennis Nostrand, vice president for enrollment at UNH, said work continues on loan availability in trying times.
"The top three or four lenders that we work with are confident they are going to be able to meet the loan needs of the students for the remaining part of this year," he said, "and for the students who enter and return next fall. However, to protect ourselves we have submitted the paperwork to go into the direct lending loan program ourselves."
That means UNH would be able to make government-backed loans directly to students rather than have them go through a private lender.
Geoff Maslen, reporter for University World News, in his article "GLOBAL: Universities lose billions as recession deepens," wrote, “How to counter, or at the very least cope with, this alarming situation -- unique in the experience of university managers -- will be the great challenge in the year ahead.”
UNH officials are hoping the university can be a lighthouse in an economic storm and a safe harbor for higher education areas in need.
For more information on the program initiatives at the University of New Haven, go to www.newhaven.edu/unhtoday.