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Newly-inaugurated Governor Bill Ritter addressed education issues in his Jan. 11 State of the State Speech. Much of the focus went specifically to issues in higher education, the costs associated with college and the state’s role in funding.
As an overall goal, Ritter announced that he would like to see students better prepared for jobs in today’s competitive economy. Ritter wants to double the number of students that graduate with degrees and technical certificates within 10 years. To do this, he stressed that college needs to be more accessible.
“Colorado ranks 49th in the country in per capita dollars directed to higher education. Our higher-education system, particularly our community colleges, is vital to rural Colorado. And for many young people across Colorado, affordable colleges and universities are the only lifeline to a better future,” Ritter said.
In a joint budget committee, he warned that Colorado has many structural problems with its budget, including amendments to the constitution that alternately limit spending. According to the CU Boulder Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis Web site, CU funding from the state is very low in comparison with other universities nationwide.
“Anything that the governor can do to help improve the picture is great. We have a low level of state funding compared to other states and we’ve seen more and more rising costs for non-residents, but still rising for residents,” said Bronson Hilliard, director for media relations at CU.
Freshman English major Kori Sparks sees Ritter’s State of the State Speech as a huge step toward affordable tuition.
“It obviously puts a strain on my family with such high costs, it’s extremely difficult to pay for college with the help of your family, let alone on your own as a full-time student,” Sparks said. “It’d be nice to see cheaper tuition and lower loan interest rates.”
Hilliard is excited to see that Ritter is openly addressing the issue of education costs. Ritter graduated from CU College of Law in 1981. CU students, faculty and alumni hope that this tie to the campus will have a positive impact on Ritter’s higher education focus.
“He is the first governor in a long time (to address these issues). Having a tie is terrific for us, he’s experienced with what we have to offer, and he has knowledge training about our school that he can provide and value,” Hilliard said.
Some students, faculty and alumni wonder what impact Hank Brown’s recent announcement of his 2008 retirement may potentially have on his education agenda.
When asked about potential negative effects, Hilliard said, “I would hope not. Hank Brown has really laid groundwork for things to happen after he leaves. You can bet that his values will continue for years to come.”
Ritter did not announce any new plans as far as higher education in regards to Brown’s announcement.
“I look forward to continuing our close working relationship over the next year, and beyond, as we address the crucial higher-education issues of affordability, access and quality,” Ritter said in a statement on Jan. 18.
Ritter pointed out that instead of competing against each other, he wants Colorado colleges to work together more often to afford students the better chance of being successful. He has recently borrowed Brian Burnett, CU vice chancellor to the Department of Corrections to have a dual role as vice chancellor for administration and finance at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. According to the press office of Ritter, this is one of the first loans of a top administrator from one state agency to another.
“Brian possesses a unique knowledge of both the corrections budget and CU’s finances. By putting him to work in both arenas, we can benefit both agencies and the people of Colorado. This is a perfect example of how we intend to approach state government’s diverse needs: through innovation and cooperation,” Ritter wrote in the press release.
Read more on Bill Ritter’s plans at http://www.colorado.gov/governor.