A Message from the President

June 2009

In This Issue...
President Bruce Benson
President Bruce D. Benson

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I recently had the pleasure to visit with Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. President Coleman leads one of the top public universities in the nation, and her university system is similar in many ways to the University of Colorado.

When our conversation turned to tuition costs, I was interested to learn that the typical resident undergraduate student at Michigan's Ann Arbor campus pays $10,868 annually. The typical resident undergraduate in an Arts and Sciences discipline at CU-Boulder pays $5,922. Michigan ensures access for its residents with institutional financial aid funded through tuition revenue, just as we do.

Each spring when our Board of Regents sets tuition, media report on how much costs will increase. But they seldom tell the entire story. There's no doubt that a university education is costly, and in difficult economic times that cost is magnified.

Yet the cost of an education at the University of Colorado remains well below that of our national peers (of which Michigan is one). To cite a couple of other peer examples, resident undergraduates pay $8,500 at the University of Missouri at Columbia and $9,354 at the University of Texas at Austin. The disparity would be understandable if the state investment in public higher education were greater in Colorado than elsewhere. But objective national statistics show our state ranks 48th in the country in state funding per resident student.

The CU Board of Regents this year charged us with keeping the cost of a CU education affordable for Coloradans. Gov. Bill Ritter authorized tuition increases of up to 9 percent this year. In May, the board approved rate increases of 3.9 percent at the Boulder campus ($262 annually for the typical resident undergraduate), 5 percent at Colorado Springs ($108 average increase) and 1.2 to 1.7 percent at Denver ($114 average increase).

We also adjusted what we call tuition linearity, which means students pay for the number of credit hours they take. Now, for example, students at CU-Boulder who pay for 10.5 credit hours get everything beyond that free. The regents adjusted that to 11 for next year and will further adjust to 12 in coming years, which will mirror the federal definition of a full-time student.

To keep tuition at manageable levels, we also cut $29 million from campus and system administration budgets. Our state funding was cut from $209 million to $159 million, and even though stimulus money will backfill us for the next two years, we face falling off a cliff when it runs out. It is prudent for us to reduce our budget now.

Tuition could be considered the "sticker price" of a university education, similar to the sticker price of a car or other consumer goods. The difference is that education appreciates in value while other goods depreciate. An investment in a university education continues to pay off over a lifetime. Among other benefits, college graduates earn more, they have greater career opportunities, they are healthier and they participate in community and civic life at greater rates.

We are committed to keeping the cost of a CU education affordable for Coloradans. While we know that cost is significant, even when compared with much higher rates among our peers, we also know that a CU education maintains its value. Of all the investments a person will make, an investment in education pays the highest return.


Bruce D. Benson

To provide feedback, please e-mail officeofthepresident@cu.edu

Commencement stories

Commencement ceremonies just finished across CU's campuses. It was a pleasure for me to be on the stage and congratulate our graduates when they received the diplomas that are the culmination of years of hard work. There were many inspiring stories, but a few stand out this year.

UCCS CommencementAt CU-Boulder, one of the graduates was Ryan Kramer, who entered CU more than four years ago as a 14-year-old prodigy. He had been taking college-level courses since he was 11. Ryan earned his degree in aerospace engineering, which is not only one of the most difficult programs at CU, it is one of the most challenging science programs in the nation. He plans to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California to continue his remarkable academic career. He was the subject of a recent profile in The Denver Post.

At the other end of the age spectrum is 89-year-old Jim Rynning, who completed all the upper-division physics courses at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Rynning received the Special Chancellor's Award from UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak. Although his education was interrupted by World War II, the retired Air Force colonel was a determined lifelong learner. He became a fixture on the UCCS campus, completing courses in history, physics and philosophy over the course of a decade as well as being an active participant in Curiosity Unlimited, a campus-based program designed to improve interaction between the public and university faculty. He says he intends to be back in the fall, and is eyeing courses in quantum mechanics.

In the middle of the age spectrum is Troy Carlton, who graduated from the College of Nursing at our Anschutz Medical Campus. At age 47, Carlton earned his doctorate while focusing on outcomes research. He would have graduated last year, but discovered he had cardiovascular problems that led to bypass surgery.  He says focusing on patient outcomes in his education helped him address his own health issues. And being a patient provided him insight that will be valuable in his career.
Young or old, traditional or nontraditional, we are proud of all the more than 8,800 students who earned CU degrees this year.

CU weathers difficult 2009 legislative session

The Colorado General Assembly recently wrapped up its 2009 session, and it was one of the most difficult in recent memory. CU and other universities weathered state budget negotiations that led us to re-examine our efficiency as institutions, and caused many citizens to question the state's commitment to higher education. Hobbled by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the state sought to balance its budget without sacrificing too many public services.

Legislators considered slashing $300 million from higher education spending, but nixed the plan when they learned that any higher education funding that fell below 2006 levels would disqualify the state from receiving federal stimulus funding. In the end, they opted to cut higher education spending by $150 million statewide, and asked CU to absorb $50 million in cuts between 2009 and 2011. Federal stimulus funding helped backfill some of the cuts, but we were forced to make some difficult budget decisions to help offset even deeper funding cuts expected over the next several years.

We worked to help ourselves in this process. Our Task Force on Efficiency identified some 40 substantive changes that will help us operate more efficiently and effectively. We also streamlined system administration, which provides services to the campuses such as payroll/benefits, information technology and security, procurement and communications.

Tanya Mares Kelly-Bowry, Vice President of Government RelationsThe CU system administration, which includes my office, cut $6.2 million from its fiscal year 2009-10 budget, and eliminated 55 positions. Our campuses cut an additional $23 million from their budgets. Federal stimulus dollars will disappear beginning in fiscal year 2011-12, and all of our cost-cutting efforts are aimed at putting us in a stronger position as we move forward. Despite the challenges, Tanya Kelly-Bowry, the university's vice president for government relations, said this year's legislative session allowed us to build a firmer foundation for next year. The key message she and her government relations team delivered to state lawmakers was the value of higher education to all of Colorado. Thanks to all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors for driving home that message on our behalf.

CU programs gaining national recognition

Several of our graduate programs continue to attract national recognition. The 2010 U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings issue released in late April included 28 academic programs from across the University of Colorado's campuses. According to the magazine's annual rankings of graduate programs, Boulder's Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics program is No. 1 in the United States, and UC Denver's Family Medicine program is No. 3 nationally. Other CU graduate programs ranked among the top 10 and top 20 in the nation. Just one example is CU-Boulder's Environmental Law program, which the magazine ranked sixth nationally. It goes without saying that none of these programs would be receiving such high praise if we could not claim such high-quality faculty and students on our campuses. I know I speak on behalf of the entire CU community when I send our best wishes to all of the people behind these success stories. Thank you all for helping us shine brighter on the national stage.

Faculty put forth outstanding efforts

Faculty across CU's campuses put forth outstanding teaching, research and community service efforts on a day-to-day basis, year after year. My office recognizes three faculty members each year who embody excellence in teaching, creative work, scholarship and research. Those chosen to be President's Teaching Scholars are asked to serve as teaching and research ambassadors on their respective campuses. Hence, it is with a great deal of gratitude and pride that I draw your attention to this year's President's Teaching Scholars honorees: Lonnie Johnson, Andrea O'Reilly Herrera and Paul Harvey. Johnson chairs the periodontics division at the University of Colorado Denver; O'Reilly Herrera is a professor of English and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; and Harvey is a UCCS history professor. Please join me in wishing them well as they begin their work as campus ambassadors.

Familiar faces fill key positions

Phil DiStefano, CU-Boulder ChancellorI told you in my last newsletter that I had appointed Dr. Phil DiStefano interim chancellor of our Boulder campus, replacing Bud Peterson, who left to become president of Georgia Tech. After conducting an internal search for a permanent chancellor, Dr. DiStefano was the unanimous choice of the search committee and overwhelming pick by the campus community to take the reins at CU-Boulder. I have every confidence in Phil, who has spent 35 years at CU as a faculty member, dean, provost and interim chancellor. He is well respected on campus, in the community and across the country. His skill, integrity, experience and willingness to be a team player will make him a great chancellor, and I look forward to working with him. You can read more about him here.

Kelly Fox, Vice President and Chief Financial OfficerI also appointed Kelly Fox as vice president and chief financial officer. Kelly has served in the interim position since December, after former vice president Robert Moore retired and later took a position at Colorado College. The position manages the university's $2.4 billion budget and coordinates activities with campus budget vice chancellors, in addition to playing a key role in our legislative efforts. Kelly has served in budget and policy positions at CU, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado's Office of State Planning and Budgeting and the National Conference on State Legislatures. She has done a tremendous job during one of the most difficult budget years in recent memory. I have every confidence in her abilities. News Release

CU this summer

Last year, we traveled the state of Colorado to share the good things happening at CU, to promote the value of higher education and to learn how we can continue to serve the communities in our state. We learned a lot in the more than 25 stops we made, and were able to connect with friends and supporters. We will continue our travels this summer, and we hope to see you along the way. You can view a complete schedule of communities we will visit on our website.