First Impressions: University of Hartford (CT)
The University of Hartford is a relatively small (3,700 full-time undergraduates) comprehensive university. Yet it offers more than 100 majors within seven schools, including the Hartford Art School and the Hartt School, a performing arts conservatory. I’ve gathered a few pictures on Pinterest and want to share my observations from my recent campus visit.
Recently, the University of Hartford made two significant announcements.
One announcement relates closely to academics while the other might lead to more investments in academics.
The university dedicated a maker space this fall.
The Hursey Center, (picture above) the maker space at the University of Hartford, is probably the most important building on campus. It’s used to help aspiring engineers and graduate students in prosthetics and orthotics design to construct and test prototypes. The maker space is also used to simulate real-life situations in the health professions.
I could see these spaces being used by engineering and music students to design instruments, studio spaces and performance venues and by many students who have artistic and business ideas. But the university will eventually need a second maker space to support more academic programs as hands-on learning attracts more interest from future students.
This announcement came in May on the heels on the men’s basketball team’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The University of Hartford is, by far, the smallest school to compete in America East. New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the next smallest school, has over 9,000 undergrads. This conference also includes flagship state schools in Maine, New Hampshire, New York (Binghamton), Rhode Island and Vermont.
I understand some reasons for the university’s decision. It’s tough to compete against schools that have more resources and larger fan bases. Not to mention that the University of Connecticut plays home football and basketball games in Hartford. But this decision leads to questions. Will the university re-direct funds previously committed to coach’s salaries and scholarships to other aspects of student life? Is it possible to invest more in academic scholarships to recruit student-athletes who are likely to be better students?
The University of Hartford wants to grow enrollment and improve retention.
This school has grown its graduate programs as its undergraduate enrollment has dropped by a fifth over the last five years. There were 4,500 full-time undergrads in 2017 versus 3,700 in 2021. The pandemic might have had something to do with the decline. But graduate enrollment rose from 1,500 to 1,900 during this time. On average, the University of Hartford lost nearly a quarter of the freshman classes that entered from 2016 to 2020. That has meant smaller classes and a more personal experience than you might get at the University of New Hampshire or the University of Rhode Island.
When undergraduate enrollments drop, a college can choose different strategies.
It can put more money into the programs that have attracted the most students and delivered the best outcomes. The college could try to develop new programs that fulfill demand from within their market. The University of Hartford wisely moved in these directions..
There’s 100 undergraduate programs as well as 64 graduate programs as well as several accelerated options. In addition, because the university is small, classes are small. The student-faculty ratio is 8 to 1 and you will never have a large-lecture class while you’re here. There’s growing interest in the programs in the health professions as well as the business programs. Interests in the visual arts as well as the performing arts at the Hartt School have been stable. There are engineering programs in emerging fields such as Acoustical Engineering, Robotics and Electromechanical Engineering Technology as well as the traditional disciplines and Architectural Design and Technology.
This is one school that you must consider by program.
Across the whole university, nearly 80 percent of applicants are accepted. The accepted student profile is about the same as the University of Rhode Island or the University of New Hampshire. A student with a 3.3 GPA or better will get into most programs, even without submitting test scores. Those who enter less prepared for college-level work are assigned to smaller classes and receive additional academic support at Hillyer College. But the Hartt School, the Hartford Art School and the health professions programs have much higher admissions standards. I would also expect academic standards to rise in the College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture to rise as more word gets out about the emerging programs.
It’s quite possible that costs could work out.
The University of Hartford estimates direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) to be just over $58,000 for the current academic year. However, the school offers fairly generous academic and talent-based scholarships to students who might not receive a similar award from Home State U or Neighboring State U. It’s quite possible for a New Jersey or Pennsylvania resident to pay less to come to the University of Hartford than they would to go to the University of Delaware or any New England flagship state school other than the University of Maine.
Are there other reasons to consider the University of Hartford?
I felt that the academics, especially several signature programs, were the best reason to choose this school, provided that you intend to stick with the program that you chose. Looking at the freshman retention numbers from different schools, the students in Hartt, the College of Education, Nursing and the Health Professions and the College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture were the most likely to stick around. This school also has over 12,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com in and around New York City as well as over 4,200 in the Boston area.
I have been to West Hartford, home to the university, several times because I have family nearby. The downtown dining and shopping experience, not far from campus, is quite nice. Hartford is not only Connecticut’s largest city; it is also the state capital as well as a major commercial center for the insurance industry. There is competition with students from Central Connecticut State University for internships during the school year as well as full-time jobs after graduation. But it’s not like competing against students in job markets such as Boston or New York or even Providence or Worcester. Over 16,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com have remained in the Hartford area. I would recommend that students have a car on campus after their first year. However, the permit costs over $350.
If you are looking for a school with spirit and sports, you might want to look elsewhere.
Not only is the university moving away from D-1 sports, Connecticut laws prohibit social fraternities and sororities from having their own houses off or near campus. There is no ‘Greek Row’ on campus at the University of Hartford. There is also a “divide” in the performing arts much like I’ve seen at larger schools. Hartt students and non-Hartt students perform together through student-run clubs and organizations. But they may not take part in concerts and performances run by Hartt faculty.
To be honest, I left campus not knowing what bonds students in this community outside of shared academic challenges.
I felt the same way at one other school I have visited, Carnegie Mellon, which is also known for arts, architecture, business and engineering programs. But Carnegie Mellon is also a far more selective school that allows Greek social organizations to have their own houses. I can imagine that Carnegie Mellon students have the pride of knowing that they survived a rigorous selection process to get into the school. I thought that a smaller number, including Hartt and health students, had a similar level of pride in the University of Hartford.
The University of Hartford has tried to find and support emerging fields while maintaining its strengths in the visual and performing arts. It can be a very supportive environment for those who want to work at their craft or professional aspirations. I hope that the school will use the savings from shifting to D-3 athletics to improve the student life experience and expand the maker space concept to more students in more majors.
Report Card: University of Hartford
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates (outside of accelerated programs): C/C
- Freshman Retention: C:
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Comforts: B+
- Community: B+
- Connections: A (Hartford, New York, Boston)/B (Philadelphia)/C (elsewhere)
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