FOUR YEAR PROGRESS REPORT
1995 – 1999
On June 7, 1995, the General Assembly adopted Public Act 95-230, An Act to Enhance the Infrastructure of the University of Connecticut, now codified as Sections 10a-109a through 109y of the Connecticut General Statutes. When the final vote was cast for the act now known as UCONN 2000, the renaissance of the University of Connecticut began.
On June 22, 1995, Governor John G. Rowland signed UCONN 2000 into law at a ceremony in front of Babbidge Library, the symbol of the University’s crumbling infrastructure. Through UCONN 2000, the executive and legislative branches recognized and addressed the University’s need for a comprehensive infrastructure renewal program to attract Connecticut’s high-achieving students, to educate a top-notch workforce and to compete effectively for job-creating research grants. The legislative program was designed to rebuild, restore and enhance the University’s physical infrastructure, but it was also designed to enhance programmatic excellence by jump-starting the University’s private fundraising with an endowment matching grant program. The overwhelming bipartisan support for UCONN 2000 reflected the depth of consensus regarding the goals as articulated in the law’s statement of purpose:
The purpose of the University of Connecticut 2000 Act is to promote the welfare and prosperity of the people of the state and the continuation and improvement of their educational opportunities by approving a special capital improvement program for the University of Connecticut and enabling the University of Connecticut to borrow money and enter into financing transactions in its own name, on behalf of the state, to expand the authority of the University of Connecticut to construct projects and to assure a state commitment to support the financing of the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, improvement and equipping of facilities, structures and related systems for the benefit of the educational and economic development needs of the state and the University of Connecticut, all to the public benefit and good, and the exercise of the powers, to the extent and manner provided in the University of Connecticut 2000 Act, is declared to be for a public purpose and to be the exercise of an essential governmental function.
Legislative finding of purpose
On February 10, 1995, the University Board of Trustees adopted Beyond 2000:Change, the Strategic Plan which articulates the University’s aspirations for its academic renewal:
The University of Connecticut aspires to be the outstanding public university in the nation… a center for lifelong learning which excels in both teaching and research… a diverse community whose values promote mutual respect, inspire intellectual curiosity and encourage service to society… an environment that fosters academic and artistic achievement as well as productive and responsible student life… an institution with a global perspective that recognizes its special obligation to enhance the quality of life and economic well-being of Connecticut.
Just as UCONN 2000 is the General Assembly’s blueprint for transforming the physical infrastructure, the Strategic Plan is the blueprint for reshaping UConn’s scholastic and social environment. These blueprints may be separate, but they are interdependent: while it is the Board’s vision of renewal that sets the context and direction for the capital building program, it is the legislature’s support that turns the vision into the bricks and mortar of lecture halls, research labs and residential and recreational facilities. Still, the finest buildings in the world are not enough. It is first class faculty, programmatic focus, community spirit and eager young minds that bring a university to life. The Strategic Plan is the value system for UCONN 2000. Neither blueprint can become reality without the other.
On September 5, 1995, almost 2,700 freshmen entered the University as the Class of 1999– the last class of the 20th century.
On January 1, 1999, only three and one-half years after its passage, UCONN 2000 has already seen many of its goals realized. When members of the Class of ’99 receive their diplomas this spring, they will leave a campus in transformation, a campus they could not have imagined upon enrollment. When members of the 1999 General Assembly review the progress of the UCONN 2000 program, they will see tangible, measurable results which demonstrate attainment of the original policy objectives of keeping high-achieving students in state, rebuilding the University’s campuses and increasing private investment.
- Student Recruitment and Enrollment: Student enrollment has increased in size, diversity and academic skill. 1998 freshman enrollment has jumped nearly 17 percent over the prior fall semester; minority enrollment is up 27 percent. Additionally, enrollment increased significantly at four of the five regional campuses, including 42 percent growth at the new downtown Stamford campus. The average SAT score of the freshman class is eight points higher than that of last year’s class.
Although the impact of UCONN 2000 on enrollment cannot be measured with
strict precision, the physical transformation of the campuses is clearly a major
contributor. For years, surveys of students who were accepted, but who chose not to attend UConn said the physical condition of the campus was a primary reason for going elsewhere. (Many of these students were Connecticut residents who then left the state; Connecticut is the second highest state exporter of college students nationally after Alaska.) The quality of academic buildings and on-campus housing was consistently cited as a significant reason for choosing not to enroll, and the surveys showed that prospective students lacked confidence in the academic program as a result of the poor impression left by the University’s physical state. UCONN 2000 is helping to slow the “brain drain.”
- Rebuilding, Restoring and Enhancing UConn’s Facilities: Even before the close of the program’s first phase, a profound physical transformation has already taken place at the University’s main and regional campuses. Since 1995, 97 construction and renovation projects have been completed; 51 are currently underway. At Storrs, the major projects that are completed include the Chemistry building, South Campus dormitories, North Campus Parking Garage, the enclosure of the Ice Rink, the addition of 2000 seats to Gampel Pavilion, and the Field House renovation. More than 60 classrooms have been renovated, enabling the integration of modern technology into curriculum. Construction is underway on the Biological Sciences building, the Agricultural Biotechnology building, and the Fine Arts building; groundbreaking for the School of Business Administration building will take place this spring.
The main campus at Storrs has been rethought in accordance with a new Master Plan. In 1998, a pedestrian core was put in place, featuring a new central mall with plazas and major crosswalks that signal the heart of campus. Less visible, but critical improvements to the University’s backbone infrastructure — roadway, transportation, utility and information technology networks — are completed or underway. Similar transformations are completed or taking place at the University’s regional campuses. A new campus in downtown Stamford opened in January 1998. Design is done on the agricultural facility at the Torrington campus and upgrades at the Greater Hartford and Waterbury campuses are planned. An already enhanced School of Law campus has further improvements in the planning stage. Utility infrastructure improvements, a new marine science building, and extensive renovations to Branford House are underway at Avery Point.
The infrastructure program recognizes that state-of-the-art equipment is essential to good instruction and research. Expenditures for equipment during Phase I will total $60.5 million, 93% of which is for educational equipment: computers comprise the lion’s share, but research and education require microscopes, incubators and oscilloscopes, too. The remaining 7% of expenditures is for physical plant (maintenance equipment), safety (fire and police), administrative (primarily systems-related) and transportation services (shuttle service has tripled with the transition to a pedestrian campus). Sixty-three high tech classrooms have been equipped. This commitment has enabled the University to recruit new researchers and attract federal and private grant funds.
UCONN 2000 funding has had a profoundly positive effect on the University’s library system. The development of digital information resources has meant that the benefits of a major research library at Storrs can now be extended not just to students and faculty throughout the main campus, but to the regional campuses, Law School, and Health Center as well.
UCONN 2000 funds have been instrumental in changing the very character and services of the library. The telecommunications infrastructure of the entire building was brought to state-of-the-art readiness with data ports available at most student and faculty study seats. The entire reference floor was reconfigured into an electronic information center complete with information cafés, micro-computer labs, electronic classrooms, and a faculty development center where teaching faculty can learn the most current techniques of technology-facilitated instruction. Early indications of the success of the renovations show that use of the library is running 25 percent above its previous all-time high.
This transformation will only continue as UCONN 2000 unfolds.
- Private Fundraising and Investment: The UCONN 2000 endowment matching program has proven to be a tremendous incentive for private giving by alumni and other benefactors to the University. The initial three-year $20 million matching grant initiative was fully subscribed in only 18 months. Annual gift receipts have risen from $8.2 million in 1995 to $20.4 million in 1998. During the course of UCONN 2000, total endowment assets have grown from $53 million in 1995 to $128 million in 1998. Total assets of the University of Connecticut Foundation reached $154 million at June 30, 1998. In addition to individual gifts supporting a vast range of activities (from cancer research to chemistry education to insurance law to teaching gifted children), the excitement of UCONN 2000 has led to commitments from private sources to cover the costs of a new University Visitors program and a permanent home for the University of Connecticut Foundation on the main campus in Storrs.
- Educating Connecticut: Since 87% of the University’s undergraduates are residents of Connecticut, the financial investment of UCONN 2000 benefits — first and foremost — our own.
- Jobs for Connecticut: As of November 30, 1998, the University had awarded 95 contracts valued at $277 million pursuant to its UCONN 2000 authority. 93 percent of the contracts (88 contracts) have been awarded to in-state vendors (primarily construction contractors, architects, engineers and similar service providers). In dollar terms, 86 percent, or $237 million, has been awarded to Connecticut-based contractors from more than 40 towns. Of the $277 million in construction contracts, $63.8 million has gone to minority-owned, women-owned or small business enterprises. In a report recently commissioned by the University, its Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis indicates that benefit to cost ratio estimates for the program range from 2.03 to 3.76 dollars returned for each dollar invested in UCONN 2000; the economic model displays this value in terms of employment, income and population growth.
- Academic Excellence: UCONN 2000 is enabling the University to align its physical infrastructure with its strategic goals for academic excellence by matching first-rate facilities with carefully targeted investments in academic programs. For example, new buildings planned for the Schools of Business Administration and Pharmacy as well as for the Biological Sciences/Physics are consistent with the University’s strategic plan to enhance these growing centers of excellence. Investments in regional campus facilities provided impetus to clarify their academic role and scope and tailor academic programs to regional strengths – such as degree programs in information technology and coastal studies at Stamford and Avery Point respectively, that anticipate and respond to the unique social and economic identities of their communities and markets. Renovations and improvements to the Greater Hartford, Waterbury and Torrington campuses reflect the commitment the University has made to these campuses through the Tri-campus initiative, designed to streamline administrative operations and, for the first time ever, offer students the chance to obtain four-year degrees at those campuses.
- Faculty Recruitment: Having new, state-of-the-art facilities and equipment has greatly enhanced UConn’s ability to recruit a world-class faculty. In the past two years, new teaching hires have been among the most talented and diverse faculty classes in the University’s history. In 1997, 43 percent were women and 31 percent identified themselves as members of under-represented racial groups. In 1998, 49 percent of the new faculty class were female and 22 percent identified themselve s as members of under-represented racial groups. In the fall of 1994, 11 percent of UConn’s faculty was minority; by 1998 that number had risen to 15 percent. In choosing UConn, these outstanding academics are demonstrating the growing national and international reputation of the University.
As it recruits new faculty members, the University has been particularly well poised to invest in areas of excellence because of the opportunity provided to refill a portion of the faculty vacancies created by the state’s Fiscal Year 1997 Early Retirement Incentive Program as well as the University’s own early retirement incentive the previous year. The ability to refill positions has enabled the University to make strategic hiring decisions, enhancing areas of academic excellence and improving faculty diversity. This, combined with the growing number of state-of-the-art facilities, labs and equipment, is in turn increasing UConn’s capacity to attract federal and private research grant funds.
- Private Partnerships: Private sector decisions to invest in the University have not been limited to the more traditional forms of gifts and grants. The University and Pfizer, Inc. have formed a partnership to create a Center for Excellence in Animal Vaccine Research on the Storrs campus. Pfizer will fund the state-of-the-art laboratory facility to expand research into the prevention of livestock diseases that compromise food safety and increase agricultural animal production costs. The University will manage the facility and occupy 20 percent of the building for use by UConn researchers.
In southwestern Connecticut, GE Capital, XEROX, and KPMG Peat Marwick, are just a few of the Fairfield County corporations that have partnered with the University at its new Stamford campus to create the Connecticut Information Technology Institute (CITI). CITI’s mission is to build a hub in information technology that responds to the educational needs of the region by providing flexible, creative and instructionally sound solutions to workforce development. The program is so important to the business community that $3.4 million of the estimated $6 million endowment necessary to fund the program has already been raised.
- Collaboration With Institutions Of Higher Education: The UCONN 2000 legislation looks to the University to consider opportunities to coordinate programs and services with other state public and independent institutions of higher education as it initiates or expands programs at regional campuses. The past four years have seen increased collaboration with the Community-Technical College System and the Connecticut State University System across a broad range of opportunities, including articulation agreements, joint offerings, shared curriculum planning, joint degree arrangements, coordinated services (such as guidance/referral and library access) and shared facility use.
The University’s Board of Trustees has adopted new role and scope statements, currently awaiting approval by the Board of Governors for Higher Education, for all of the regional campuses; activities at each campus reflect a heightened level of collaborative activity. Discussions have also been held with independent higher education institutions regarding the Stamford campus relocation and the University has become a member of the Greater Hartford Higher Education Consortium, a public/private collaborative now working with the MetroHartford Millennium Project.
- Reliable Funding: The law provides $962 million in bonding authority, over a ten year period with annual caps, to construct new buildings, renovate and repair existing facilities and purchase new equipment. $382 million is authorized for Phase I, the first four years of the program.
- Authority: UCONN 2000 authorizes the University to plan and implement a capital construction program independently, with the authority to issue securities, in cooperation with the Governor and the State Treasurer, on behalf of the state to finance UCONN 2000. The law also gives the University the responsibility to manage, prioritize and sequence its own construction projects. This reflected the understanding of the General Assembly that, unlike discrete and separate state agency building projects, UConn must construct an integrated system of buildings, utility systems, roadways, and electronic networks servicing and linking its campuses in furtherance of its strategic plan and academic priorities.
- Flexibility and Local Control: Recognizing the uncertainties and exigencies inherent in managing a ten-year building program, the statute provides authority to move projects between phases as well as to increase or decrease project funding with the approval of University’s Board of Trustees, so long as the University observes the annual statutory bonding caps. This flexibility takes account of the fact that the project cost estimates in the law were preliminary projections done years in advance without detailed program and design specifications. The “local control” afforded the University has been important for other reasons. On the main campus, where an enormous amount of building is going on in a relatively confined space, balancing the logistics of construction work, traffic flow, delivery needs, safety and user access has required flexibility, as has the need for swing space for instructional activity and faculty offices during renovations.
- Endowment Matching Grant: UCONN 2000 established a three-year pilot program that provided a $20 million matching grant to encourage the University’s private fundraising efforts and build its endowment. Every private dollar raised through this program is matched by one state dollar. Funds support student scholarships, faculty positions, and academic programs. (Note: Based on the tremendous success of this program, which was fully subscribed in only eighteen months, the General Assembly extended the match for the duration of UCONN 2000 and made available an additional $52.5 million on a 1:2 basis – one state dollar to every two private dollars.)
- Accountability: The Act requires the University to submit semi-annual reports on the status and progress of UCONN 2000 to the Governor and the General Assembly. The University is also required to submit a four-year UCONN 2000 performance review report to the Governor and the General Assembly through the Education and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committees by January 15, 1999.
UCONN 2000 provided the University with a predictable and stable source of capital funding and authorized it to plan and manage its capital construction program independently. The University has sought to maximize the potential of this unprecedented opportunity.
- Comprehensive Planning: To assure maximum return on the state’s investment, the University created a new physical Master Plan to guide development at its main campus. The plan creates a coherent campus-wide blueprint, with a pedestrian core, major pathways and “neighborhoods” that emphasize the special character of academic, recreational and residential areas. The Plan also sets strict siting and design standards which capitalize on the existing beauty of the campus, while at the same time ensuring the efficient, durable and technologically sound infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of the 21st century.
- Integration: UCONN 2000 enables the University to take a comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, approach to rebuilding its physical plant. The University is developing long-term and integrated roadway, transportation, utility, and technology networks that will support new construction as well as the needs of the institution well into the next century.
Roadways have been added, realigned and closed 1) to move traffic out of the core of the campus in keeping with the new pedestrian focus 2) to enhance safety and 3) to ensure an efficient and user-friendly shuttle system for students, staff, faculty and visitors. The opportunity to plan comprehensively has led to a centralized utility infrastructure which will produce significant savings due to efficiencies in terms of energy use, standardization of control systems and ease of maintenance.
Additionally, architectural building guidelines, materials specifications, and fixture and landscape standards have been adopted to unify the overall look of the Storrs campus. Signage across the entire University will also now be standardized. This type of coordinated approach is not possible when infrastructure needs are addressed on a project by project basis.
- Customer Focus: UCONN 2000 also recognized that, unlike state agencies, the University exists in a competitive marketplace and must be responsive to its primary customers: students. The authority and flexibility provisions of UCONN 2000 allow the University to do just that by creating a campus that is student-friendly with safe, comfortable housing, new and renovated academic buildings containing state-of-the-art classrooms and research laboratories, pedestrian walkways, accessible campus transportation, and athletic and recreational facilities. Students, faculty and staff have been involved in every phase of development, from the conceptual framework of the Master Plan to project-specific program and building design.
With the independent management authority vested in the University by UCONN 2000 came the increased responsibility for administering funds and projects in an efficient and accountable manner. The University has implemented management practices and controls that ensure quality, save money and add value.
- Streamlined Administration: The University has contained costs for administering and supervising project construction through its decision to utilize private sector contract administration services to supplement a small in-house project management staff. Administrative costs for internal project management since the program’s inception total $1.3 million, or one-half of one percent of the total cost of the program to date. The resulting savings, as compared to pre-UCONN 2000 project management fees (which were never below 4% and sometimes exceeded 20% for campus projects), have been directly invested in buildings, equipment and infrastructure improvements on the University’s campuses. UConn’s project managers have frontline responsibility for delivering projects on budget and on schedule, ensuring adherence to the Master Plan and collaborating with the rest of the University community to produce maximum programmatic benefits.
- Prequalification of Contractors: UCONN 2000 specifically directed the University to prequalify contractors in accordance with set criteria. The process was developed to assure that contractors who bid on a project possess construction experience and financial strength commensurate to the specific project undertaken, thereby increasing the University’s and the State’s fiscal protection and quality control. Potential bidders are evaluated according to criteria including the following: experience on similar projects, bonding capacity, financial ability, managerial ability, technical ability, prior project quality, use of subcontractors, integrity, and absence of any conflict of interest. Only those determined to have met these criteria are eligible to submit bids; the contract is then awarded to the lowest bid by a responsible bidder. A good example of the value of prequalification is the recently completed Chemistry building. Only contractors who had been involved with similar large-scale high-technology teaching and research facilities were selected to bid on the project. As a result, the building is one of the most advanced academic chemistry buildings in the nation. The breadth of the UCONN 2000 program is such that contractors who do not meet the criteria for a project like the Chemistry building may well be qualified for smaller projects like the Ice Rink, Visitors Center or the many renovation activities planned.
- Owner Controlled Insurance Program: In undertaking authority for capital construction projects under UCONN 2000, the University also assumed responsibility for managing the associated risks. Although state projects in Connecticut have always required that contractors and subcontractors purchase their own insurance for workers compensation and general liability, it is also possible for the construction “owner” (e.g., UConn) to secure a single policy in its own name for the same coverage. Such coverage is known as an Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP). UConn’s OCIP has provided the University with a number of benefits including greater savings through unified purchasing power and elimination of contractor markups, better coverage and limits, elimination of gaps in coverages, enhanced job safety through coordinated safety programs, and more opportunity for minority and small business contractors who might otherwise find coverage unavailable or too expensive.
Over $4 million in savings have been realized to date through the use of the OCIP, with an estimated total of $8.9 million in savings projected through the completion of UCONN 2000. UConn has also put into place a more comprehensive professional liability insurance program to ensure protection beyond that offered by traditional “errors and omissions” coverage.
- Technology Support and Access: An undertaking the magnitude of the UCONN 2000 program requires powerful information technology support. With the need to track more than 100 capital projects in process at any given time, UConn is putting into place CAPSTAT, a new project management database system covering all financial, design and construction aspects of the program. A home page on the World Wide Web provides information (including architectural/engineering/materials standards and bid advertisements) to those seeking general knowledge about, or professional engagements with, the UCONN 2000 program.
- Financing: Since February 1996 three series of Debt Service Commitment Bonds have been issued with a face value totaling approximately $308 million and a single Special Obligation Bond for South Campus has been issued with a face value of $33.6 million. The outcome of the collaboration with the State Treasurer has been very positive: UCONN 2000 bonds have met with excellent marketplace response.
In October, Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency upgraded the State of Connecticut’s General Obligation ratings from “AA-” to “AA”. The “AA” rating was also extended to the University’s General Obligation bonds back by the State’s Debt Service Commitment, and the University’s Special Obligation bonds secured by the State’s Special Capital Reserve Fund. The ratings upgrade will result in debt service savings from lower interest costs. Equally important, in announcing this news, Standard & Poor’s cited as one of the reasons for the upgrade the focus of the State’s capital budget on strategic investments like UCONN 2000, which will enhance the State’s economic competitiveness.
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