Leaders, Students Strategize: How to Make Hartford A Hopping College Town

Hartford has 11 colleges and universities downtown or nearby — including the newly opened UConn Hartford — but that alone doesn’t make the city a college town.

“A lot of towns would be jealous to have this many colleges,” said Richard Sugarman, who is president of Hartford Promise, but he said the schools don’t yet have the kind of presence that seeps into the community and transforms it.

 “It’s a mutual thing where the community feels connected and informed and engaged by the college,” Sugarman said, “and the college feels connected, informed and engaged by the community.”

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We should all be concerned about college student retention

The degree to which college students are capable of successfully moving from matriculation to graduation, described as “retention” or “persistence,” should be a concern for all of us.  Employers regularly complain that the skills needed for the workplace are lacking.  Policy wonks lament the declining ratio of productive workers to retirees, now about three to one, down drastically from decades ago – an ominous threat to the solvency of the Social Security system, as well as the viability of the economy and the health care system.

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Reconnecting Higher Ed - What to Do?

Higher education seems to be splitting into two different socioeconomic camps: one for high school grads coming from "advantage" backgrounds (increasingly the minority of college-bound students), heading off to pricey private colleges or prestigious state universities (e.g., UConn), and the growing majority of underrepresented, first generation and otherwise challenged students often lacking the "back home" support to thrive in higher ed.

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College Retention is Everyone’s Challenge

For generations past, graduation from high school was adequate and more or less guaranteed employability at a living wage. College was for the rich and otherwise privileged minority on their way to a business or professional career, and to continued advantage.

That division of labor, well-suited to an economy in need of many trainable entry-level employees, no longer meets our economic and social needs. Education and skill requirements for an increasing number of 21st century jobs continue to escalate.

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