Editorial: Investment welcome, but jobs are equally important for state
Board Chair Larry McHugh. ARI MASON/The Daily Campus
Last week, Governor Dannel Malloy announced plans to invest $1.5 billion in UConn over the next ten years. The proposal, referred to as Next Generation Connecticut, focuses on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, and includes initiatives such as hiring more faculty, expanding enrollment and building new facilities.
We certainly welcome any and all investments in UConn's future, especially ones of this magnitude. Infusing that amount of capital into our University will surely improve it, offering more educational opportunities for students and increasing the value of our degrees. However, we feel that it is just as, if not more, important to expand opportunities for employment in Connecticut, especially in the STEM fields.
UConn is currently a great school. We consistently earn high ratings in a wide range of ranking systems, including lists of the most sustainable colleges in the world and US News & World Report's rankings of public research universities. We've received record number of applications from prospective students. We're building world-class facilities, including our first LEED Gold Certified building.
Yet after UConn students graduate, it's getting harder and harder to find a well-paying job in the state. Many of our graduates, especially in the STEM fields, leave Connecticut for more promising opportunities across the country. This is not just anecdotal.
According to statistics from the Connecticut Department of Labor, the state's unemployment rate has traditionally been lower than the rest of the nation's, sometimes by as much as four points. In the 120 months from 1983 to 2012, Connecticut's unemployment rate has only been above the national rate for 24 months. Six of these were the last six months of 2012, which is the most recent data available on the Department's website.
In addition, these past six months have seen the biggest difference in the two rates. In the other 18 months when Connecticut was worse off than the rest of the nation, the largest gap was a mere 0.3 points. The past six months have seen gaps as wide as 1.1 points, with Connecticut currently at 8.6 percent compared to the nation's 7.8 percent.
Unless more jobs are created in the state, future students - including STEM majors - will come to UConn to get an education, then take their skills elsewhere. The taxpayers of Connecticut will subsidize in-state students' college degrees, only to see no return on the investment in the form of future income taxes.
This isn't to say that Governor Malloy has not done anything to bring jobs to the state. For example, his Bioscience Connecticut plan convinced industry leader Jackson Labs to open a facility in Farmington, bringing hundreds of high-paying jobs with it.
We need to ensure that UConn students, including STEM majors who directly benefit from the Next Generation Connecticut plan, have job opportunities in the state after graduation. Otherwise, all of these investments in higher education will do little to benefit the people of Connecticut.
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