University of Colorado, A Message from the President
January 2014

Dear Friends and Alumni,

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal detailed how colleges and universities are finally getting religion and cutting costs to address declines in state funding and unsustainable tuition increases.

The article's timing was interesting, given the start of Colorado's legislative session last week, in which the governor and legislators are recommending a $100 million increase for higher education; $60 million operating (CU's share would be about $17 million) and $40 million financial aid (CU share to be determined). The news is welcome since Colorado has had the dubious distinction of being the bellwether for dwindling state funding for higher education.

The cost-cutting process the Journal described that other state universities are beginning is one we have been engaged in since 2008, when I started. And while economic clouds always have the silver lining of the opportunity to examine the operation and improve business practices, for us the process of ensuring a world-class university is more deliberate, with many interconnected parts.

It all starts with our reputation. Over the past six years we have made a conscious effort to promote and protect ours. It's on our minds every day. We share the great things happening at CU, from our MAVEN Mars mission to groundbreaking Alzheimer's research, from student success to faculty excellence. On the reverse side of the reputational coin, we anticipate as many problems as we can and address those that do arise immediately.

We demonstrated the collective power of CU by reducing the more than 400 logos university entities used previously to only a handful, led by the well-known interlocking CU. We are one university with four campuses. We created CU Advocates, a network of 2,300 alumni and friends who help us promote the university's value, contributions and challenges.

We launched CU for Colorado, a program highlighting how 240 separate CU programs delivered around the state benefit communities large and small, and how some 400-plus CU-affiliated clinics serve Coloradans. We use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools to reach as many people as possible. We are stepping up our efforts to market the university so more people can learn about our activities, value and contributions. We have expanded our electronic mailing list from 80,000 to 372,000 so we can share good news far and wide.

Our reputation also manifests itself in two key areas where we intersect with our constituents, our hospital and intercollegiate athletics. The University of Colorado Hospital was named the nation's top academic hospital two years running (2011 and 2012), an honor emblematic of the quality of care we provide the people of Colorado and beyond. We also have created University of Colorado Health, a network of seven hospitals with a combined 15,000 employees and $2.4 billion budget. Coupled with CU's 27,000 employees and $3.1 billion budget, our reach and reputation are extensive.

CU-Boulder joined the Pac-12 Conference in athletics three years ago, a move that has implications far beyond the considerable spotlight that athletics shines on the university. It lets us connect with a large number of alumni and donors, make inroads into states where non-resident students come from, and further important research partnerships with colleague institutions such as Stanford, UCLA, Cal-Berkeley and the University of Washington.

While minding our reputation is a continual focus, so too is the work of being efficient and effective with our funding. Part of a strong reputation is ensuring that our constituents know we are doing all we can to cut expenses and increase revenues.

To that end, the start of the Colorado legislative session highlights one of our key initiatives: building on our work with lawmakers over the past several years on legislation to allow us to operate more efficiently. For example, allowing us to opt out of onerous state purchasing rules and use our internal controls has saved CU millions. Different legislation lets us use CU volunteers, among the top people in the state, to guide us on real estate matters, saving us millions. Legislation that removed international students from non-resident enrollment caps has allowed us to attract more international students (without turning away any qualified Coloradan), which enhances our campus learning environments and brings millions in additional revenue. We will continue to work with lawmakers this session to improve our operations.

We also have streamlined administration, cut bureaucracy and instituted better business practices. Our administrative overhead is 43 percent below national peer averages by which we are measured. We cut policies from 210 to 88, freeing our workforce from considerable red tape. I have found that it is the quality of the people, not policies, that makes an organization such as ours effective. We have an extremely high-quality faculty, many of whom have also stepped up. A substantial number have increased teaching and advising loads for minimal additional compensation.

We are working to enhance two of our key revenue streams, fundraising and research funding, both of which benefit from a strong CU reputation. We recently completed our $1.5 billion Creating Futures fundraising campaign, but we know we can do a lot better. We are revamping our entire fundraising operation and raising the bar to be in the same league with the top public universities in the nation. With research funding, we are working to create a new business model to diversify our funding partner base, improve our internal processes and realize greater return on our intellectual property.

While research funding and fundraising account for more than $1 billion of our $3.1 billion budget, it's important to note that funds are designated by funding agencies and donors, and cannot be diverted to our area of greatest need, operations. Those are funded by state appropriations and tuition.

All of this hinges on a strong reputation. That is driven in large measure by the people of the organization. Those people, from faculty and staff to alumni and donors, are first rate and contribute greatly to our positive reputation.

So while colleges and universities around the country start the process of looking within for savings and efficiencies, CU continues a deliberate process that has been front and center for the past six years, since the recession started. That process has positioned our university to continue to thrive and advance the economy, health and culture of Colorado and beyond.

For feedback, contact

Bruce D. Benson
Bruce Benson

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Office of the President, University of Colorado
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