Budget cuts and additional sacrifices are in the immediate future for CU.
When CU President Bruce Benson held a twice yearly town hall meeting of students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, he got straight to the point about CU’s financial situation.
“I was just asked if I brought some good news on funding,” Benson told a group assembled in the Old Main chapel. “I’d love to say yes, but no, I have not.”
Benson devoted much of the talk to the current status of the university budget and the role of state funding.
“I often say that we used to be state-funded, and then we were state-assisted, and we’re well on our way to being state-located,” Benson said.
According to Benson, the 2003 budget for state support was $226 million. Since then the state’s contribution to the $2.72 billion CU budget has shrunk to $146 million.
Using the 2003 budget as a benchmark, Benson said that factoring in student population growth and inflation the state support should be $326 million.
He said CU’s revenue forecast for next year will be cut $40 million and will demand greater efficiency from the university.
One effort at better efficiency is the CU system’s move from the state’s procurement system to its own. Benson said that the subsequent savings will be in the millions of dollars.
Benson said that other efforts at increasing efficiency include self-insurance, lack of salary increases and changes to the travel system. These efforts have helped CU keep overhead costs at 40 percent below peer institutions.
Before tackling the budget, Benson spoke about the future of the CU system and stressed the concepts of cooperation, coordination and collaboration between campuses, administration and other institutions in the state of Colorado.
Benson said he was enthusiastic about the CU’s move to the Pac-10 athletic conference. He said that the benefits went beyond athletics.
“You’re judged by the company you keep,” Benson said. “I think those schools in the Pac-10 or 12 are the schools we want to be associated with.”
Benson mentioned that CU current research partners Stanford, University of California and University of Washington are integral to creating positive economic growth in their communities.
“Research universities are job creators,” Benson said.
David Brown, associate professor of political science, said he agreed with many of Benson’s points including CU maintaining a high level of academic standing and the university’s positive contribution to the Colorado economy.
“If you want a thriving university where the good students want to come, something has to give,” Brown said. “You either have a university to provide the bare essentials or you allow it to make some improvements to keep the best talent in Colorado.”
Another topic of Benson’s talk was the need to further develop CU’s outlook on diversity. Pre-collegiate programs were mentioned as well as a greater inclusion of international students on CU campuses.
Benson wants to raise international student numbers at CU from 4 percent to 12 percent accordingly, with the potential to bring in 70 to 80 million dollars in extra funding.
Questions raised by the audience at the end of the talk included costs of construction, the low level of faculty and staff compensation and the recent rebranding of the university.
Benson said, on the 2 and a half year rebranding process that has cost the university three quarters of a million dollars, that he thought the effort would pay off in the long run.
Rachael Fischer, a 22-year-old broadcast news and communications major, is not so enthusiastic about the new logo and its cost.
“I understand that they’re trying to change things up,” Fischer said. “But I think that something that cost that much could be budgeted differently.”
Fischer said the commitment of the state to funding CU is also a concern.
“I definitely believe that government funding for public schools is important and that’s something that’s in jeopardy right now,” Fischer said.
Brown said he agreed, and that someone needs to step up to keep CU’s education strong.
“If the state really wants to give Coloradans a good education, and one that’s affordable, the state has to pay for it,” Brown said. “You do that by increasing the amount of money the state gives the university, which then would allow tuition to stay fairly low. But if you starve the university of state funds, then it relies increasingly on tuition to function. If you starve it in both ways were not going anywhere. And were going to fall behind. You get what you pay for, as a state Colorado has to decide what it wants.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Thomas Cuffe at Thomas.email@example.com.