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Education Leaders Seek to Make Hartford a College Town

University of Connecticut
The future downtown Hartford UConn campus will be moved to a site anchored by the former Hartford Times building.
One challenge is the perception that the city is unsafe.

Hartford's higher education leaders want to make the city a college town, and hope this will drive cultural and economic growth in the state’s capitol.

Martin Estey says more needs to be done to get students to live in and explore Hartford. 

“You can’t just put a campus here and expect the students to start leaving their class and start walking around town," said Estey, executive director of the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education. "You have to build programming that actually, intentionally, gets them out to look around Hartford.”

One of the programs is something called cross registration, which works like this:

Say you’re a student at the University of St. Joseph and you want to take a class at the University of Hartford that St. Joe’s doesn’t offer. No problem. Each of the consortium's 11 colleges and universities has agreed to let students from one college take classes at another, at no extra cost.

But there some challenges to getting students to stay in Hartford. Part of the problem is the perception that the city is unsafe, said Rhona Free, St. Joseph's president.

“There has to be understanding that it’s a very safe area, that it’s a very walkable area, very livable, in the sense that there are the amenities, and basics, that college students need: grocery stores, book stores, bike shops,” Free said.

Credit Hartford Consortium for Higher Education
From left, Rhona Free, president of St. Joseph's University, Mark Scheinberg, president of Goodwin College, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity College, and Wilfred Nieves, president of Capital Community College.

The consortium is speaking out as downtown has seen a boom in additional college campuses. Trinity College, the University of Connecticut, and St. Joseph's have all made plans to add class space in Hartford. 

Estey says the city itself can be used as a learning tool.

"You want to learn about politics and economics, and you want to study why a neighborhood is suffering from blight, you don't do that in a book," he said. "You go out and look at the neighborhood and find out what were the forces that created this situation."

Hartford Public Schools also works with consortium members, and offers many students access to college-level courses.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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