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Brown's vision of the future

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Brown's vision of the future

Plan would upgrade facilities, boost pay

BY JENNIFER D. JORDAN

Journal Staff Writer - Thursday, March 4, 2004

70%20Ship%20Street002.jpg

Journal photo / Sandor Bodo

The ambitious and broad-ranging 15-year plan would expand programs, add more buildings and faculty members, and cost about half-billion dollars. The former Speidel building on Ship Street, with its view of Route 195 and downtown Providence, will become a new laboratory.

PROVIDENCE -- When you slow down, you fall behind.

Aware that Brown University has lagged behind other elite institutions in several key areas -- modern facilities, faculty pay, library acquisitions, student-teacher ratios, financial aid and endowment funds -- Brown's corporation has endorsed an ambitious half-billion dollar plan to expand the university over the next 15 years.

A two-year discussion with students, faculty and alumni yielded an expensive list of priorities, some of which will affect Providence as well as the campus, says Brown President Ruth J. Simmons.

Simmons envisions a more diverse student body that receives more financial assistance; a larger, better-paid faculty with time to offer more courses and take more sabbaticals; new classrooms, materials and research facilities, including an expanded medical school; a better quality of life for students with a new fitness center and refurbished dining halls and dormitories; and a much larger endowment and annual fund to help pay for it all.

"We shouldn't be spending money on curlicues," Simmons said. "We need to come up with things that are important to our educational mission, not to impress people with how the campus looks."

A new $95-million Life Sciences Building adjacent to the current biomedical complex off Meeting Street is already under construction and scheduled to open in 2006. Another $23 million is transforming the former Speidel Inc. building on Ship Street in Providence's Jewelry District into biomedical laboratories and a genetics center. Together, the two projects increase Brown's research space by 75 percent and represent the biggest investment Brown has made in research facilities in 12 years. Brown officials hope the facilities will lure more federal grants and boost the state's plan to attract biomedical and biotechnology companies.

Brown already leases space for its development office and computer support services in the Jewelry District, but the Ship Street building is its first purchase there, said Richard Spies, a senior adviser in charge of Brown's planning. In fact, the Jewelry District has been targeted as a likely area for future Brown expansion, as space is limited on College Hill.

Because, like other top universities, only 40 percent of Brown's operating budget comes from tuition and fees, officials are already looking for other ways to finance this sprawling plan. Brown plans to kick off a $1-billion fundraising campaign in the next few years, to augment its endowment and double the annual fund. Some donations are already pouring in; alumnus Charles M. Royce just gave $5.5 million to endow six new professorships.

Another $335 million in other capital projects are also being discussed, but many will not be built for a decade, so estimating the real cost is impossible, Spies said.

Top on the list is a proposed $40-million campus center in a central location, where students and faculty can mingle, relax and learn, Simmons said.

The lack of a large center and social balkanization are common student complaints, Simmons said. Where it would be built is still up in the air.

"Fundamentally, we believe in excellence through diversity, and one dimension of that is providing an environment where students are exposed to different backgrounds," Simmons said. "But we don't have the kind of facilities we need to provide that experience." Students also want a large auditorium, so more students can hear speakers and attend events together.

Brown's "hopelessly inadequate" fitness equipment and long waiting lines are simply unacceptable, Spies said, particularly as tuition, board and fees are going up 4.9 percent this fall, to $39,808. The plan calls for a $15-million fitness center and upgrades to dormitories and dining halls.

Millions more must be spent on additional classroom space, library and technology upgrades and a $40-million facility for public health, officials said.

Given the intense competition among top-tier colleges, Brown has to start meeting the standards of other leading schools, according to its president.

Brown's student-teacher ratio hovers between 8 to 1 and 9 to 1, which Simmons said is high for the Ivy League. In addition, spending on library acquisitions and teacher salaries is lower, and Brown's professors can't take as much time for research and sabbaticals as their peers.

So far, $20 million has been earmarked to begin hiring 100 new faculty members -- a 20-percent increase -- over the next six years, 18 of whom have already joined Brown. The whole effort, including raising average salaries by 10 percent and improving benefits, is estimated to cost about $62 million. Once that goal is reached, the university still plans to hire as many as a dozen new professors a year.

Brown plans to build on its interdisciplinary structure by collaborating even more with the Rhode Island School of Design and other area colleges, and forming new partnerships, Provost Robert J. Zimmer said.

"Brown, like many of our peer institutions, is really committed to a broad-based set of intellectual agendas," Zimmer said. "We are trying to move in all areas in an important way."

As critical as the capital improvements are, investing in human potential is just as important, said Simmons, the first African-American selected to head an Ivy League university. Simmons, who grew up in segregated Texas as the daughter of a Baptist minister, said she is committed to making Brown more diverse. That means making sure Brown's doors are open to any qualified student, regardless of his or her ability to pay.

"The idea of education being a diversity of sources and ideas is a deeply held value -- diversity of gender, ethnicity and geography," Simmons said. "We want to make sure our financial aid policy matches that."

Brown plans to increase financial aid for undergraduates, Simmons said. Under the new need-blind policy, 43 percent of undergraduate students received aid last year -- up from 36 percent three years ago -- and the average package is about $24,000, most of which is in grants and scholarships, officials said. Graduate students will receive $4 million more in financial aid and receive health insurance under the plan.

"Brown is faced with a big question," Simmons said. "Given all the challenges we face in remaining competitive, what are the most important things we need to do to ensure we will be strong and viable a century from now?"

From The Providence Journal

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Brown set to enhance stature of med school

The university looks to spend nearly a half-billion dollars on new building and additional faculty and to strengthen its authority over research and teaching at its affiliated hospitals.

BY FELICE J. FREYER

Journal Medical Writer 4/6/2004

PROVIDENCE -- Brown University yesterday announced a sweeping plan to elevate the national stature of its medical school, invest $475 million in the life sciences over the next 10 years and strengthen its authority over research and teaching at its seven affiliated hospitals.

The plan calls for two new buildings and dozens of new faculty members in the three sections of the Division of Biology and Medicine -- biology, public health and the medical school. This commitment of resources is expected to help Brown recruit a new dean of biology and medicine.

It also affirms Brown's growing recognition of its medical school as an asset and source of pride. Interim Dean Richard W. Besdine called that attitude "transformational" for a university that didn't even call its doctor-training effort a "medical school" until 1991 (it was the Program in Medicine for most of its life).

"The medical school is an important part of the university," Brown President Ruth J. Simmons said at a news conference at Brown yesterday. "Our commitment is to make it as strong as it can be."

In its early days, some at Brown feared the medical program would drain resources, although Besdine says it has never run a deficit. Now, the university is poised to pour money into medicine and biological sciences.

"The university is now stepping up their commitment to academic medicine in a fairly significant way," George Vecchione, chief executive officer of Lifespan hospital corporation, said in a phone interview yesterday.

That, Vecchione said, will enable Brown to recruit top-tier faculty members, who in turn will draw the best doctors to Rhode Island to treat patients here, as well as doing research and training doctors. Lifespan encompasses three hospitals affiliated with Brown -- Rhode Island (Brown's main teaching hospital), Miriam, and Bradley Hospitals.

Vecchione said that the quality of health care in Rhode Island has improved dramatically over the past three decades. Today, many more people come to Rhode Island for health care from out of state than those that leave the state for treatment elsewhere.

The previous dean of medicine and biology, Dr. Donald J. Marsh, retired in 2002. Brown commissioned a review of the division, and the reviewers recommended changes in the school's structure before recruiting a new dean.

"In the past, the position of dean of the medical school hasn't had a great deal of funding or authority," Constance A. Howes, president of Women & Infants Hospital, one of Brown's affiliated hospitals, said in a phone interview last week. "This is an attempt to be able to attract a much higher caliber dean by increasing the amount of resources, as well as control over academic appointments and strategic direction."

Central to the plan are amendments to Brown's agreements with the seven hospitals where Brown runs training programs for medical-school graduates from around the country. The amendments clarify the lines of authority and pave the way for Brown to broker more coordination among the hospitals in developing new programs.

Under the plan, Brown's dean of medicine and biology will be the chief academic officer at each hospital. The hospitals will contribute a total of $1.5 million to a discretionary fund that the dean can use for faculty recruitment, research, or whatever he or she deems necessary. Brown will contribute an additional $1 million to this fund.

Brown has always had a tricky relationship with its affiliated hospitals. Unlike other medical schools, which either own their teaching hospitals or employ the faculty who work there, Brown is in the awkward position of recruiting faculty who then get paid by a hospital, not the university. That won't change for most positions -- but the new agreements give Brown a clearer, stronger role in decisions regarding teaching and research.

"Until this set of agreements, most of the decision-making about academic programs were made department by department," Besdine said.

Now, the new agreement may make it easier for Brown to coordinate programs across the fractious hospital community, in which rivalries can hinder joint efforts. For example, the hospitals that treat cancer patients have never been able to pull together to create a unified statewide cancer center, although such centers are widely regarded as the best way to treat patients and conduct research.

Brown has long talked of establishing such centers, but has had few successes. Now, the new agreements provide "a set of processes," with the dean at the center, that will enable the coordination to finally take place, said Provost Robert J. Zimmer.

But it all depends how well that plan is carried out, said Francis R. Dietz, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, in Pawtucket. "An element of competition still exists between the hospitals," he said. "Competition exists between faculty members. It's human nature. If all of us as CEOs and the dean at the top say, 'Look, guys, we want this collaboration,' hopefully that will send out more positive signals."

"We have an outstanding medical school," Dietz added. "They probably could have progressed even better with more collaboration." For example, if small groups working on separate projects at separate hospitals joined together, Dietz said, they would probably have more success winning major federal research grants.

Besdine, the acting dean, said that Brown intends to recruit a leader and centralize research in the area of health disparities -- the study of why health varies depending on ethnicity, age, gender, income and location.

Other areas that call for a centralized effort are musculoskeletal care, geriatrics, cardiovascular health and women's health. But no specific commitments have been made, Besdine cautioned, because the medical school's direction will be determined by the new dean.

The plan sets goals to place the Brown Medical School in the top quartile nationally in research funding (it is now in the middle of the second quartile, Besdine said), and to make sure the residency programs rank in the top 20 nationally.

The medical school, which now awards about 80 medical degrees each year, is also considering enlarging the student body by about a third to 400.

Through Brown's unique Program in Liberal Medical Education, most Brown medical students enroll as Brown freshmen in an eight-year program that encompasses both undergraduate and graduate studies. Starting next fall, Brown will experiment with admitting an additional 8 to 10 students who did their undergraduate work and come to Brown just for the medical school.

A healthy commitment

  • Brown University has pledged a strengthened commitment to its Division of Biology and Medicine, which encompasses biology, public health and the Brown Medical School.

    Among the highlights:

  • Expanding by 30 percent the number of professors in basic biological sciences.

  • Increasing life-sciences laboratory space by 70 percent with two new buildings, including one in a former factory in Providence's Jewelry District.

  • A formal affiliation with the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass.

  • Recruiting 17 new tenure-track faculty in the Program in Public Health over the next five to seven years.

  • Increasing the faculty in the Department of Community Health from 54 to 100 full-time faculty, 27 of them tenure-track.

  • Double the graduate student body in public health to 160.

  • Dedicate 150,000 square feet to serve as home for the Program in Public Health.

  • Recruit a new dean of medicine and biological sciences.

  • Provide the dean $12.5 million over five years for academic purposes in the medical school.

From The Providence Journal

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Brown looks to expand beyond East Side

Because of limited space on College Hill, several buildings will be constructed off campus.

BY JENNIFER D. JORDAN Journal Staff Writer | April 6, 2005

PROVIDENCE -- Brown University is fast outgrowing its perch on College Hill and plans to expand into other parts of the city over the next several years, in order to accommodate life sciences, biomedical laboratories and research.

Richard Spies, a senior adviser in charge of Brown's planning, estimates the university will require 500,000 to 700,000 additional square feet over the next decade, to complement Brown's 6 million square feet on College Hill.

While several new buildings are also scheduled for construction on Brown's main campus as part of Brown's $500-million enrichment plan, including a new fitness facility and a student center, several life science buildings will be located off campus. These include a badly needed $40-million facility for public health and future expansion of Brown's medical school.

"We have some capacity [to build] within College Hill, but it's limited and we ought to use it selectively," Spies said yesterday, shortly before he updated Brown's faculty on the expansion plans.

Possible areas for Brown's future growth include the Jewelry District, where Brown bought the former Speidel Inc. building and transformed it into laboratories for molecular medicine. Other prime sites are the undeveloped parcels that ring the harbor, from India Point to Narragansett Landing. Because of the Route 195 highway relocation project, 42 acres along the harbor will go up for auction in about two years, state officials say. Another potential expansion site is along the Promenade behind the Providence Place mall.

...

CITY AND STATE officials have been working closely with the 240-year-old university, in an attempt to dovetail the state's economic development and the future redevelopment of Providence with Brown's expansion.

"I think Brown's expansion will be a very important catalyst for what the city and state want to see happen," said Michael McMahon, executive director of the state's Economic Development Corporation. "Anytime I talk to investors about Providence, if it isn't the first question, it's the second: What is Brown going to do?"

...

Brown's expansion will trigger other kinds of expansion, including developing retail, restaurant and living space in brownfields -- the industrial areas along the Providence River harbor -- and old mill buildings, Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline said.

"Reclaiming the brownfields and making them vibrant, mixed-use areas again is one of the city's greatest opportunities and Brown has the ability to become one of the lead partners in that work," said Cicilline, a Brown graduate. A Senate proposal -- the Providence Development Corporation bill -- seeks to bolster development efforts among the city, state and private sector.

Public-private partnerships with universities have sparked impressive economic growth in places such as Raleigh-Durham, Silicon Valley and Massachusetts, Cicilline said. He pointed out the success of Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT, and the explosion of technology companies, restaurants and shops around Route 128.

...

Continue reading at: ProJo.com

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There is much concern out there that as Brown expands the city's tax base is going to shrink. I don't buy into that much. Any Brown project in the jewelry district or on the promenade is likely going to spur enough development (or at the very least economic activity - be it jobs, etc) to counter the loss of property tax. However, I really think a way around this problem would be to create new land. Namely, I think the portion of I-195 between Fox Point and India Point park should be decked over. Brown could then build graduate student or upper classmen housing on top. Even if Brown passes on this option, the city should really consider removing this eye sore. The same goes for I-95 just west of downtown!

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I hate the shortsightedness of this "they don't pay tax" arguement that people always throw out there. It not only ignores the great potential for economic development expansion at the school brings to the city, but totally ignores the fact that Brown (and RISD) voluntarily pay taxes to the city. RISD and J&W even pay into the special tax that created the Downcity Improvement District.

I'd like to see how these people would like the city if Brown pulled out altogether and moved out of state.

I personally think decking 195 at Fox Point would be a grand idea. But I don't think it will ever happen, and there are a bunch of reasons for it. 1) the residents like not having neighbours, they prefer the highway. 2) it would be hugely expensive, especially for a non-profit like Brown. 3) It would have to be tall buildings and the Fox Pointers would sh!t. I think within the next 20-30 years we'll see a serious proposal to deck 95 on the West Side (sadly I don't see it happening any sooner than that), but I wouldn't imagine Brown would do it, too expensive.

I think if having J&W and Brown grab a bunch of the land currently under 195 is the difference between it being developed right away, and having it sit vacant for a decade like Capital Centre, then the schools should get it. They don't need to take all of it, and the more valuable parcels (like stuff closest to the river) should be kept for private development that will generate taxes. I think the Jewelry District is really the best place for Brown to go. They already have the Ship Street building there, it's near the hospitals which helps with their bio-med work, and it's the best proximity to their College Hill campus. The West Side and the Promenade are too far flung from the main campus.

Brown already operates a shuttle service with RISD that runs from the Hill out to the Jewelry Distirct, RISD will be expanding their portion to run downtown more frequently in the fall. J&W sits between the two, it would perhaps be a good idea for the 3 of them to work together on it. Or the schools could fund some sort of RIPTA shuttle that circulates through the campuses and are also available to the public.

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Wouldn't it be great if any or all of Brown's plans included parking, as if Thayer St was crowded enough.

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Wouldn't it be great if any or all of Brown's plans included parking, as if Thayer St was crowded enough.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Brown actually just started a program with RIPTA wherein the University pays 50% of employees RIPTA pass, and the employee pays the other 50% pre-tax. They estimate they have removed a couple hundred cars from College Hill daily.

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Brown actually just started a program with RIPTA wherein the University pays 50% of employees RIPTA pass, and the employee pays the other 50% pre-tax. They estimate they have removed a couple hundred cars from College Hill daily.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well, that's some progress, I guess. I heard Brown was looking to build a garage somewhere on the east side. Gano St. maybe?

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I think the Jewelry District is really the best place for Brown to go. They already have the Ship Street building there, it's near the hospitals which helps with their bio-med work, and it's the best proximity to their College Hill campus. The West Side and the Promenade are too far flung from the main campus.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I heard a rumor a while back that the Heritage Harbor bldg might end up being partly devoted to medical research labs. Maybe Brown could use it. Other than this site, I don't think there's any other large development parcels in the Jewelry District, that is, until 195 is relocated.

I agree that much of the Promenade (as far west as Olneyville) would be too far, but the vacant part of the Foundry at the eastern edge of this area is actually not that far from Brown (not any farther than the Jewelry District, I believe) and could be an alternative site.

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I heard a rumor a while back that the Heritage Harbor bldg might end up being partly devoted to medical research labs. Maybe Brown could use it. Other than this site, I don't think there's any other large development parcels in the Jewelry District, that is, until 195 is relocated.

I agree that much of the Promenade (as far west as Olneyville) would be too far, but the vacant part of the Foundry at the eastern edge of this area is actually not that far from Brown (not any farther than the Jewelry District, I believe) and could be an alternative site.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I"m note sure exactly where the best Brown expansion would be, as none of the candidates are an organic outgrowth from its campus. If I were them, I'd buy out Heritage Harbor and some of the coming 195 land nearby there and create a "second campus." Also partner with Providence to build a replacement for the Point Street bridge that would have a large pedestrian walkway and a lane devoted for Brown transit buses.

- Garris

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Also partner with Providence to build a replacement for the Point Street bridge that would have a large pedestrian walkway and a lane devoted for Brown transit buses.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There's supposed to be somesort of pedestrian crossing built where the current 195 bridge is. A transit bridge could be incorporated into that, pedestrians, bike lane, bus lane...

The vacant land next to Heritage Harbor is mostly slated to be open space (Ship Street Landing). Though right next to the Heritage Harbor building is marked as a 'hotel' according to Jewelry District design documents.

The parking lot at 3 Davol Square (where the Hi-Hat is) could (should) be developed, also the Jewelry District commission wants the parking lot at the Manchester Street Power Station (Newport Ferry parking) to be developed.

There is a parking lot not far from Brown's Ship Street building that is used by Women & Infants, something could be built there with underground parking. Brown also has offices at the Coro Center and there's a sea of surface parking along the highway at Point Street that could be developed.

I think there is plenty of room in the Jewelry District, even without the 195 land. Considering Brown is already there with Ship Street and the Coro Center it makes sense for them to continue to expand there. There are other areas that are technically not far from the East Side campus, such as the Promenade and areas along North Main, where they could expand, but it behooves them to not become scattered all over the city.

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I guess. I heard Brown was looking to build a garage somewhere on the east side. Gano St. maybe?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Parking is the number one topic of conversation at both Brown and RISD and among East Side residents. The East Siders hate that Brown and RISD and Wheeler School employees and students choke up all the street parking, but as soon as a parking garage is floated they scream bloody murder. A garage is also expensive, and the schools really don't want to pay for it.

Various parking proposals have been floated. Brown asked RISD to go in with them on a garage, RISD said no. There was a proposal for a satellite lot on North Main, never happened. Everyone complains about parking, but no one wants to do anything about it. The RIPTA pass program is at least a step in the right direction. Now if the state can just keep RIPTA from cutting services...

The number of faculty at Brown and RISD who live on the East Side (like over on Blackstone) who drive to work is absolutely sickening as well. :rolleyes:

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Parking is the number one topic of conversation at both Brown and RISD and among East Side residents.

It sure seems to be... In my opinion, in the morning rush, the worst offender is the Wheeler School. Parents dropping off their kids just chokes Angell and parts of Hope.

The number of faculty at Brown and RISD who live on the East Side (like over on Blackstone) who drive to work is absolutely sickening as well.  :rolleyes:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Agreed. Yale, when I was there, had a pretty extensive bus system that served the campus and nearby neighborhoods, including major spots like shopping districts, the train station, etc. Anyone with a Yale ID could get on, and many professors, grad students, etc who lived nearby would use it. Brown's RIDE system seems fairly tame by comparison.

Yale also at the time banned all Freshman from having a car and upper classmen could only have a car if they parked it in a Yale University garage.

Then again, Yale committment to and involvement in New Haven appears to far outstrip Brown's engagement with Providence, for good and bad.

- Garris

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Interesting article. A few things that piece doesn't say is that, over the past 8-10 years or so, medical school applications have been dropping precipitously, as much as 25-35% compared with their peak in the mid 90's.

Applications to med school are often seen as an interesting indicator of the national economy. The worse conditions get, the more people apply to med school. The better the economy and the more opportunity exists in other fields for smart students, the more people don't apply to medicine.

As the preparatory period for med school is 2-4 years, depending on several factors, I wonder if this current uptick reflects more the bursting of the high tech and entrepreneurial bubbles of the 00's than a desire of college students to treat the increasingly geriatric population. I certainly have met college students thinking that medicine may now be a more "secure" choice than the now dried up go-go high tech jobs, with their easy money and previous copious availability.

The other trend not noted here is that medical trainees are increasingly choosing sub-specialty careers (as I've done) and not general medicine (internist, family practice, OB-GYN, etc) positions. When the article talks about the looming physician shortage, they are only referring to the later generalist positions and certainly not the former subspecialty ones. Brown students, by and large, choose subspecialty fields...

- Garris

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Brown doesn't pay property tax, correct? Or Jwu and RISD? I remember reading that somewhere.. probably on here.

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Brown doesn't pay property tax, correct? Or Jwu and RISD? I remember reading that somewhere.. probably on here.

Most universities and big non-profits pay some amount to their host cities "In Lieu of Taxes." I imagine that is the case for the universities in Providence, as well, but I've never heard this amount discussed. Anyone know if the universities pay Providence, and how much?

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Most universities and big non-profits pay some amount to their host cities "In Lieu of Taxes." I imagine that is the case for the universities in Providence, as well, but I've never heard this amount discussed. Anyone know if the universities pay Providence, and how much?

I seem to recall hearing someone mention to me that Brown does pay something to the city, but I believe it's considerably smaller proportionately than what, for example, Yale pays to NH or Harvard pays to Cambridge/Boston.

I thought this was an interesting quote:

"About 5 percent of the class of 1990 stayed in Providence, but out of the class of 2003 about 12 percent stayed in Rhode Island."

Does anyone know how this 12 percent compares to other top-flight universities? I wonder, for example, what Yale's percentage staying in CT or Dartmouth's in New Hampshire. My guess is that it's somewhat lower, as I'm guessing that Brown's lack of professional graduate schools (no law school, no business school, no forestry or divinity schools, for example) to entice undergrads to stay hurts this number significantly. The medical school is also fairly small.

- Garris

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I wonder, for example, what Yale's percentage staying in CT or Dartmouth's in New Hampshire. My guess is that it's somewhat lower, as I'm guessing that Brown's lack of professional graduate schools (no law school, no business school, no forestry or divinity schools, for example) to entice undergrads to stay hurts this number significantly. The medical school is also fairly small.

- Garris

I grew up right next to Dartmouth College, and off the top of my head I'd hazard a guess that the retention rate is quite high. Of course, Dartmouth has the Tuck School of Business, and in neighboring Lebanon is one of New England's largest hospitals that pulls a lot of Dartmouth Medical students. My father designs and builds high end homes in the area and many Dartmouth grads end up leaving town only to come back to build a house and raise their kids in the surrounding towns.

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