President Bruce Benson addresses CU affairs

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson addressed funding, tuition and CU’s first year in the Pac-12 during his speech to a crowded Glenn Miller Ballroom on Wednesday morning.

Benson has been the president of the entire university system — CU Boulder, UC Colorado Springs, CU Denver, and Anschutz Medical in Aurora — since March 2008. He began his Boulder-specific speech praising the progress and resiliency the campus has shown in the last few years.

“The reputation of this institution is very strong, in Colorado and nationally, and it’s important that we continue that every day,” Benson said. “There has been an increased workload for us. Everybody is doing more to make this university run.”

Benson said that the school’s current overall $1.2 billion budget, which consists of tuition, student fees, auxiliary funds, research grants and state funding, is also greatly supported by fundraising efforts and private donations.

“This is especially impressive given the economy,” Benson said. “Parents are happy because their kids are happy here, and they’re getting a great education.”

CU has experienced major setbacks recently due to a lack of state funding; Colorado ranks 48th in the nation for financial support of higher education. The resulting budget cuts have led to increased tuition and deferred maintenance on campus.

CU’s Vice President for Communication, Ken McConnellogue, said that the campus has been dealing with these financial circumstances by taking matters into its own hands.

“One approach we’ve taken is passing legislation that allows us to operate more like a business and less like a bureaucracy,” McConnellogue said. “We can become more internally efficient that way.”

Benson hopes that new tuition policies will create more financial balance. Adopted in February, the changes include a guaranteed tuition rate for both in and out-of-state students, and will implement a concept called linearity.

“Linearity is complicated, but basically, when you register for 11.5 credits, everything else you sign up for afterwards is free,” McConnellogue said. “So if you’re taking a full 18 credit hours, you’re getting almost half of your courses for free.”

Benson told the audience that he was proud of the campus’ acknowledgements of the challenges they’re facing.

“When we have a problem, we address it immediately and we put it to rest,” Benson said. “We’ve been doing a great job.”

Benson also talked at length about CU’s first year as a part of the Pac-12 conference, and said he considers the transition thus far to be a success.

“You are judged by the company you keep,” he said. “We want to be judged by the Berkleys, the Stanfords and the SCs. Those are the universities we relate to.”

He explained that switching conferences was the right thing to do because of the existing relationship between Colorado and the West Coast states; the majority of CU’s out-of-state students come from California. It’s an important relationship, Benson said, that needs to be strengthened and maintained.

“This isn’t just about football and our sports teams,” Benson said. “It’s really about our research partners, alumni base and our recruitment of students from the West Coast.”

Benson reiterated throughout his speech that, first and foremost, every decision that the university makes—financial or otherwise—is based on CU’s reputation as a renowned academic institution. McConnellogue, who works closely with Benson, echoed that philosophy.

“We expect to deliver quality education,” McConnellogue said. “The prize we keep our eyes on throughout everything is making sure that we continue to offer that.”

To Benson, there is no challenge too difficult for CU to overcome, thanks to the dedication of the university’s various employees and the passion and respect of alumni and parents.

“It all comes down to communicating every way we possibly can about the greatness of the University of Colorado,” Benson said.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Annie Melton at Anne.melton@colorado.edu.

Annie Melton

Annie is a senior news-editorial journalism major. She spends most of her free time following politics obsessively, listening to music and missing good barbecue from her hometown of Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @meltonannie1

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