By: David Kelly | University Communications
AURORA, Colo. - Facing ever shrinking budgets, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson said Friday that he may ask voters to approve a funding stream to help finance a university system that contributes over $5.3 billion to the state economy, though he stressed no specific measure has been developed.
"We are still in the early stages," Benson told faculty and staff at the Anschutz Medical Campus. "But we are about five to seven years from when we will run out of money from the state. We simply need more funding support."
An initiative could go on the ballot by 2014, he said.
CU has also hired the Chicago consulting firm of Grenzebach Glier & Associates to help assess the effectiveness of its fundraising efforts.
"We think we could raise more than $200 million from various private sources," Benson said.
The university's funding woes are very real.
In 1991, about 20 percent of the state budget went to higher education. In 2001, that dropped to 14 percent and now it's hovering around 6 percent. Colorado is 48th nationwide in state funding per student.
"Our endowment is $848 million which is peanuts compared to other universities," Benson said. "The University of Michigan, for example, has an endowment of over a billion dollars."
Benson noted a number of ways to boost revenue, including monetizing CU's intellectual property and marketing the university to a wider audience.
He also said recruiting more international students was imperative.
"We have met with foreign consuls to ask what we can do to attract more of their students."
The president said he was grateful that the CU Board of Regents approved employee raises this week. But he said faculty and staff still make less than their counterparts at other universities in the country.
"We've held wages down for too long and frankly it's time to step up," he said. "If you want quality you need to spend money."
CU has reduced administrative expenses far more than many colleges, depending increasingly on tuition and fees for funding. Meanwhile, employees have worked more efficiently, doing more with less.
"We have faculty and staff lecturing and advising students far more than they are required to do," Benson said. "I can't stress enough the level of dedication our people have to this place."
Budget issues aside, Benson praised CU research programs that have gained so much local and national publicity. And he called for even greater efforts to highlight work on Alzheimer's disease, ophthalmology research and cardiac disease treatment.
Benson himself received a pacemaker at the University of Colorado Hospital.
"I had a heart deal and Dr. Larry Hergott diagnosed me," he said. "The treatment I received and the professionalism of the staff was amazing."
Hergott recently won worldwide attention when the BBC ran a story about his medical work with gorillas and orangutans at the Denver Zoo.
"I feel so good about the university and feel so proud about the work we do here," Benson said. "I am constantly surprised by the quality of the people."