Leadership tells legislators about CU's major contributions, funding challenges
By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER – The vital role the University of Colorado plays in ensuring student success and creating the next generation of leaders was celebrated and affirmed at CU Advocacy Day at the state Capitol on Friday.
CU President Bruce Benson, along with campus chancellors, highlighted the university’s powerful economic impact and key contributions to workforce development. “Employers want people with high-quality degrees, and we generate nearly half of all the degrees in the state of Colorado and the vast majority of graduate and professional degrees,” Benson said.
Besides promoting the university’s educational, research and economic contributions, CU leadership raised awareness about CU’s funding challenges amid shrinking state support.
Scenes from CU Advocacy Day:
Benson pointed out that the university five years ago received $229 million in state funding, but this fiscal year will get $144 million, including $3 million in backfill cuts. “We’ve taken some pretty hard hits, so the question is ‘what do you do about that?'” he said. “You put in efficiencies, cut redundancies between campuses and central administration. We continue to do things like that. We’ve also done things like an insurance audit. These are millions of dollars in savings for the University of Colorado.”
He noted that the university’s administrative overhead costs are 44 percent below peer institutions. Also, he said, many faculty have voluntarily increased their teaching and advising loads for a small stipend.
CU Advocacy Day drew more than 200 participants from across the CU System, including several students who spoke about the university’s life-changing influence during a lunch reception at First Baptist Church. The morning program featured special guest speaker Natalie Mullis (CU-Boulder, ’94, ’98), chief economist from the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, and a presentation by Todd Saliman, CU’s vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer.
Advocacy Day was hosted by the CU Office of Government Relations and CU Advocates Program, the latter led by Michele McKinney. Tanya Kelly-Bowry, vice president, Office of Government Relations, introduced the speakers at the luncheon, who included Regent Sue Sharkey and U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. Also participating in the day’s activities were Regents Steve Bosley and Joe Neguse.
More than 35 state legislators attended the luncheon. “Earlier this week CU received funding for CU capital projects, which we haven’t seen in a while, so thank you for your support for these critical infrastructure projects on our campuses,” Sharkey said. “I’d also like to thank all of the CU Advocates. Your presence demonstrates to our legislators how passionate you are about CU and about higher education. Everyone here today shares a common goal — to ensure the success of our students and our state.”
Gardner, who earned his law degree from CU, also thanked the advocates. “We’re in this together because higher education creates so many opportunities for our economy, so many opportunities for our cities, but also it is the future of our nation,” he said.
Don Elliman, chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, explained that the priorities for CU Denver include defining and marketing the university brand, diversifying revenue streams and improving the university’s metrics on student success. On the third goal, Elliman said the university feels it has a “moral obligation to try and make sure students get through … on time and within a budget. We are investing in a number of programs to do that.”
Lilly Marks, vice president for health affairs for the University of Colorado and executive vice chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus, said the Anschutz Medical Campus is one of the largest research institutions in the country with about $425 million in research activity. The campus also accounts for about 900 invention disclosures, more than 100 patent filings and the creation of about 40 new businesses. “It’s really accelerating the discovery into the marketplace, as well as to the bedside,” Marks said. Despite many challenges confronting the Anschutz Medical Campus — sequestration, the state and federal budgets, among them — “We continue to be unbelievably optimistic and enthusiastic about the great work that’s happening,” she said.
The student speakers included three from CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus: Megan Alcott, a graduate student in counseling; Gordon Hamby, a senior in communications; and Ajay Thomas, a candidate for both doctorate and doctor of medicine degrees.
Alcott said, “I have enjoyed the CU Denver campus because of its urban setting and the opportunities available to me while going to school in the middle of downtown Denver.”
Hamby enthused, “The difference CU Denver has made in my life, and the CU System, is mind boggling. There’s been so much outreach and support.”
Thomas added, “All of the things going on at the Anschutz Medical Campus can’t be rivaled at any other institution in the country.” He summed up the sentiments of the day by saying, “I can’t imagine a better place that I’d want to be besides CU.”
(Photo at top: CU Denver student Megan Alcott addresses the luncheon during CU Advocacy Day at the Capitol on March 22.)