The University of Connecticut Just Received the Largest Gift In Its History. It Went to the School of Nursing.

The UConn School of Nursing will soon be able to accommodate more students thanks to a $40 million gift from a former Subway executive.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Updated on October 18, 2023
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  • The University of Connecticut School of Nursing recently received $40 million — the largest gift in the university's history.
  • The gift from a nurse-turned-businesswoman will help expand college enrollment and ultimately ease the state's nurse shortage.
  • The funds will also help create new scholarships for low-income students.

The University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Nursing received a $40 million gift, which will help fund a new school building and increase the school’s capacity to educate more nurses. It's the largest gift in UConn's history, and school leaders say it will help train more nurses and, ultimately, ease the state's nurse shortage.

"We see the gift as transformational for UConn nursing,” School of Nursing Dean Victoria Vaughan Dickson told BestColleges.

Elisabeth DeLuca — a graduate of the school, a former nurse, and widow of Subway sandwich chain co-founder Fred DeLuca — gifted the $40 million. According to school officials, the gift will combine with government funds to construct a new state-of-the-art nursing school building at the university's main campus in Storrs.

DeLuca's gift will also help establish new nursing scholarships and cultivate new faculty members by expanding its graduate nursing programs. The goal of such moves is to address the nurse shortage that continues to plague the nation — Connecticut included.

According to Dickson, the gift will enable the program to expand its student success programs by offering more scholarships and supporting students transitioning into the workforce.

The Nurse Shortage in Connecticut: A Look at the Numbers

It shouldn't be a surprise that gifts and government funds are flooding into UConn in an effort to address the state’s nursing shortage.

Connecticut ranks in the bottom half of states in the nurse-to-patient ratio. According to a NurseJournal analysis of 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Connecticut has 9.46 registered nurses (RNs) for every 1,000 state residents.

That is the 24th-worst ratio in the U.S., albeit slightly higher than the 9.22 national average.

How Will UConn's Record Gift Help Ease the Nurse Shortage?

DeLuca’s $40 million gift will help support the construction of a new facility for the UConn School of Nursing.

Connecticut’s legislature, with support from Governor Ned Lamont, recently allocated $30 million to construct this building. Dickson said DeLuca’s gift gives the school flexibility to use the gift toward the construction project if necessary.

According to the school, the building will feature various spaces for nursing students to learn through simulations and other training exercises. It will also include larger lecture halls and gathering spaces.

The gift will also allow the program to hire more nursing faculty and staff to support a larger cohort of undergraduate and graduate students.

Dean Dickson said the UConn School of Nursing received nearly 2,900 applications for the 2023-24 academic year. However, the school only had the space and available faculty to support a first-year class of approximately 175 students.

But as a result of this gift, that number is set to increase substantially. The goal is to increase the number of first-year students to 250 “within a few years,” she said.

Finding the faculty to accommodate that demand can be challenging, as nursing school educators are also in a significant shortage. That’s why another focus of these funds will be growing UConn’s graduate nursing programs. Dickson said she hopes to double the size of the nurse educator program within the next year or so.

By graduating more students through this program, she said there will likely be more potential educators. This would allow the school to continue to grow its class sizes and hopefully train enough new nurses to shrink the state’s nurse-to-patient ratio.

"We have lots of eager applicants,” Dickson said, “So we're looking forward to supporting that future pipeline."

She declined to specify how the $40 million gift will be distributed among the program’s many goals, including increasing enrollment, new student support programs, scholarships, and hiring new faculty.

There is currently little detail about new potential scholarships that may come from the donation.

BestColleges recently spoke with deans at Florida public universities who said a spike in nursing school funding allowed each institution to significantly grow enrollments from one year to the next. Like UConn, these institutions had trouble admitting students despite a high volume of applicants.