Eyeing revenue, UConn keeps separate Hartford business campus

100 Constitution Plaza, the location of UConn's Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford

Photo courtesy of UConn

100 Constitution Plaza, the location of UConn’s Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford

The University of Connecticut will keep its Hartford-based graduate business programs at Constitution Plaza, scrapping plans to consolidate at a single downtown campus next year.

The university’s board of trustees, seeing growth in both enrollment and revenue in graduate business programs, has voted to approve a new 10-and-a-half-year lease at Constitution Plaza, breaking with an original plan to leave the building next summer. The decision allows the already profitable programs to continue expanding, the university said.

UConn is preparing to move its Greater Hartford campus from suburban West Hartford to the Front Street District downtown next fall. The move will relocate the school’s undergraduate branch as well as its graduate programs in social work and public administration.

The university had anticipated extending its lease at 100 Constitution Plaza – the site of UConn’s Graduate Business Learning Center – for one more year before moving the graduate business programs to the new campus after the 2016-17 academic year.

University officials say the Constitution Plaza space can accommodate greater expansion of the six graduate business offerings in Hartford, which have more than doubled their enrollment over the past four years.

Over the same period, the university’s revenue from those programs has nearly doubled as well. Last year, the university reported net revenue of $28.4 million from the campus, up from $14.5 million before the sharp uptick in enrollment.

Much of the growth is coming in what has become the school’s largest graduate business program in Hartford – business analytics and project management. John Elliott, dean of the university’s business school, said as it has grown, the program has drawn “largely international students.”

The university is benefiting financially from the push to expand that program, as well as the financial risk management program, which Elliott said also predominantly enrolls international students. International and out-of-state students pay $33,812 per year to attend, more than the $13,026 per year for in-state students.

Those two programs, according the university’s most recent enrollment projections for the coming academic year, account for more than 62 percent of new students arriving at the campus since 2013, playing a substantial role in the revenue surge.

Enrollment in the school’s part-time MBA program also has increased significantly in recent years. Projections for the 2016-17 academic year show that enrollment in the program will nearly double from that in 2013, making it the second-most popular option at the campus behind the business analytics and project management program.

Elliott says students enrolling in the school’s MBA programs are predominantly Connecticut residents.

Scott A. Jordan, UConn's chief financial officer, testifies before the Appropriations Committee.

Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror. org

Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer

University officials welcome the added revenue that comes with the increase in students. UConn Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan said the need for more space in downtown Hartford “is a good problem to have.” He said as state funding falls and the university is forced to raise tuition in response, any option to increase revenue must be explored.

“If we’re ever going to maintain our commitment to affordability for students – and state support is declining – we need to be entrepreneurial and rely on programs like this and grow them and embrace them,” Jordan said.

He said the trend of steadily growing revenue “absolutely” creates a financial incentive to keep the space at Constitution Plaza. The new lease allows the school to use six floors in the building instead of the four it has had in the past.

“Our graduate and executive education programs are – I hate to use the word ‘profitable’ at a university – self-supporting,” Jordan said. “First, they support themselves entirely. They pay their own rent. They pay the professors. And they generate revenue for the business school and for the whole university.”

The university will pay $1.1 million in rent the first year of the lease and $1.4 million the second year. Rent will then increase by about $15,000 each year for the remaining eight and a half years on the lease.

Students at the business school, Elliott said, still will have “many of the shared services” available to other students at the Front Street District campus, including access to the Hartford Public Library and Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

The university originally planned for the graduate business programs to share a building with the graduate social work programs at the Front Street District site, which is adjacent to the library and museum. Constitution Plaza is four blocks north of the site.

As the number of international students grows, Elliott said, the university has made adjustments to some of the programs they most frequently enroll in. These changes, he said, could create a path to citizenship for some of them through work experience.

Within the last year, the business school has given “STEM” designation to the two programs with high international enrollment. This status is given to programs requiring advanced skills in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. As a result, most international graduate students at the Hartford campus now have the opportunity to participate in practical training for up to three years.

Elliott said building a relationship with an employer over that length of time could make the difference for some international students hoping to stay in the United States.

“Many employers are reluctant to get into this kind of a relationship with someone if you can only be with them for a year,” Elliott said. “But what we’re finding is that employers who look at this three-year opportunity say, ‘Oh, that’s long enough to really come to know this individual. And if they turn out to be a really strong addition to our program, we can support them for citizenship or a green card.’”

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