Higher education in danger

On April 27, after several months of discussion and debate, trustees for The University of Connecticut voted to shut down its Torrington campus.

UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz cited declining enrollment as one of the reasons.

In a press release, Reitz wrote that over the past five years, fall enrollment has ranged from 177 to 249 full- and part-time students.

Reitz added that the campus “competes with other regional campuses in the area.”

In an interview with The Winsted Journal after the closure was announced, Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC) President Michael Rooke said that he never saw UConn Torrington and NCCC as competitors. 

Rooke said that both college campuses were “partners,” and that many graduates from NCCC went on to learn at the UConn Torrington campus.

Both Rooke and Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone said that they are upset at the closure of the Torrington UConn campus. They have every right to be upset, as do residents throughout the Northwest Corner. Educational opportunities — including access to educational opportunities for all residents in the state — are important.

While Reitz wrote that students can shift to the Waterbury UConn campus, which is 30 minutes away from Torrington, she does not take into account residents from other towns outside of Torrington, including Norfolk, Colebrook and Barkhamsted, and towns even further inside the Northwest Corner, such as North Canaan, Salisbury, Kent, Sharon, Falls Village and Cornwall.

Adding to this, back in March the Board of Regents approved a 5 percent tuition increase for UConn students and a 3.5 percent tuition increase for community college students. This despite what Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System President Mark Ojakian said when he met with NCCC students on March 2.

In addressing NCCC students, Ojakian said, “I’m not really interested in balancing the state’s financial burden on the backs of the students who are attending our colleges.”

Between shuttering the UConn Torrington campus and increasing tuition for students, it has now become much harder for residents in the Northwest Corner to pursue higher education.

This is a shame, because a state university should be inclusive of the whole state. It should not leave in the cold a large number of people who live in a specific geographical region.