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Seven weeks after the former executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, David Skaggs, announced that he was resigning his position, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter announced he is designating Rico Munn for the role.
Munn previously served as the executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies as well as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Denver. Between 2002 and 2007, he represented Colorado’s First Congressional District on the State Board of Education, which overlooks Colorado’s elementary and secondary public education system, according to a prepared statement from the office of the governor.
Skaggs, a former Colorado representative for 12 years, served as executive director of higher education for two and a half years, according to the Web site of the Office of Congressional Ethics. Previously, he was an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado.
In total, Colorado’s Department of Higher Education administers and correlates policy for more than 425 institutions, which includes four and two year, private and occupation establishments of higher education according to a memorandum from the Department of Higher Education. The department also oversees the state’s student loan and investment programs.
Rico Munn officially takes the post on Nov. 2, but had technically assumed duties as executive director as of Oct. 15, the day a press release on the situation was released from the office of Gov. Bill Ritter.
“I’m excited,” Munn said. “There are significant challenges and unique opportunities to find new ways to address these challenges. As the old adage goes, crisis and opportunity are flip sides of the same coin. Does anyone take a job they don’t think they can handle?”
Munn said he does express some concern with his new role.
“There are a couple of challenges,” Munn said. “We need a systematic plan of how we do higher education, but there’s a paradox of finding a stable funding steam.”
John Karakoulakis, the director of Legislative Affairs has been working at the Department of Higher Education for three years and says the goal of the department is to increase the visibility and availability of higher education for students in Colorado.
“The department also kind of sees CollegeInvest and College Assist,” Karakoulakis said. “CollegInvest provides loans, backs student loans and also has 529 college savings plans. College in Colorado and College Assist have the goal of getting kids to know about college and how much it costs, and the college opportunity stipend.”
Currently the Department and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education disseminate procedures in five areas: Academic Affairs, Budget and Finance, Capital Assets, Statewide Extended Studies, and Information Management and Research, according to a memorandum from the Department of Higher Education.
Given the current economic circumstances and the budget cuts Colorado’s institutions of higher education have sustained in the last year, of these areas, budget and finance seems to be the most vital area to Boulder students.
“The Finance division’s responsibilities include developing the annual combined operating budget request for the state institutions of higher education; developing, and implementing standardized financial statements for colleges and universities; coordinating the budget process with the governing boards; developing, publishing, and monitoring tuition and fee policies and related reports; and preparing fiscal notes on propose legislation,” the memo stated.
Most students aren’t aware of the responsibilities covered by the Department of Higher Education, but Etan Brandt-Finell, a 22-year-old senior philosophy and history double major, had a specific objective he’d like to see the department accomplish.
“We should create a more comprehensive Web site that directs people through the process of loans and financial aid,” Brandt-Finell said, “that basically tells them what they need to do to get aid. Also making sure that this Web site is in English and Spanish so that everyone can have access.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sheila V. Kumar at Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org.