Colorado State University Chancellor Larry Penley Unveils Plan for Transforming Colorado

Larry Edward Penley, chancellor of the Colorado State University System, has publicly unveiled his strategy for transforming the state through higher education as the 2007 Legislative session begins.

The plan is detailed in a white paper Penley presented to the Colorado State System Board of Governors in December titled "Transforming Colorado: Higher Education and the Future of Our State". Gov.-Elect Bill Ritter, who attended the Board of Governors meeting where the paper was discussed, stressed that he would seek consensus in the higher education community to find additional resources for higher education.

Based on the concepts forwarded in the white paper, Penley and eight other Colorado university and college presidents drafted and endorsed a separate opinion paper outlining reasons Colorado’s quality of life and economic prosperity depend on future investment in higher education.

Both papers are available on the Web at

This unique, collaborative statement from eight of the senior higher-education leaders in Colorado underscores the importance higher education will take when the Legislature convenes Jan. 10.

A recent study commissioned by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education revealed the state’s higher-education system faces a minimum $832 million shortfall when compared with peers, $520 million of this at the state’s research universities.

"A well-conceived, appropriately funded system of higher education provides a vehicle for addressing some of our most complex societal challenges while assuring us continued economic competitiveness," Penley said. "Higher education is essential for almost every job we want to attract or retain in Colorado. We need to begin to engage a wide audience to convey that higher education matters to every one of us."

As a next step, in the near future Penley will release a proposal to address the significant underfunding of Colorado’s colleges and universities by more closely linking funding with state priorities and goals. Such fundamental reform of the state’s higher-education funding process will be essential to reversing the longstanding problems and capitalizing on the strengths of Colorado higher education, he said.

Presidents at Colorado’s major research universities – Penley, Hank Brown at the University of Colorado, and M.W. Scoggins at the Colorado School of Mines in particular – are already working collaboratively in ways that benefit Colorado.

Consistent economic analysis indicates research universities provide a fundamental economic advantage for the state in which they’re located. Colorado’s research universities all rank in the top tier nationally, and each brings strengths in areas ranging from biomedicine to engineering to human health. While the universities and community colleges routinely compete for students, faculty and research funding, those competitive advantages strengthen the institutions and their benefits to Colorado.

"Colorado’s higher-education leaders, the business community and the state Legislature need to work together to reinforce higher education as an important, well-funded economic engine for Colorado," Penley said.

In addition to Penley, state higher education leaders signing the opinion paper this week include the following:

-Hank Brown, president, University of Colorado

-Brad Bartel, president, Fort Lewis College

-Tim Foster, president, Mesa State College

-Nancy McCallin, president, Colorado Community College System

-Kay Norton, president, University of Northern Colorado

-M.W. Scoggins, president, Colorado School of Mines

-Bob Spuhler, president, Colorado Mountain College

-David P. Svaldi, president, Adams State College

For more details, go online to