Colorado State University has in the past year set records in research funding and giving, improved facilities, added faculty and successfully launched its first Supercluster, a groundbreaking method of translating university innovation for the marketplace, Colorado State President Larry Edward Penley said during his annual state-of-the-university speech today.
"Lots of positive things are happening at Colorado State University today," Penley said in his address before the Fort Collins Rotary Club. However, he noted, Colorado’s budgetary outlook contains foreboding news for the state’s institutions of higher education.
"A national study now places Colorado, among all 50 states, absolute last in our per-student support of young people in higher education," Penley said. "It is time to recognize the solution does not exist in the current budgetary structure of our state."
Penley called for a voter-approved method that supports higher education through long-term, stable funding with a caveat that each institution be accountable for results. The grim alternatives are either more costly tuition or degradation of the quality of Colorado’s higher-education system.
"Higher education is not a private good driven by tuition paid by individual students and their parents," Penley said. "Higher education is a common good that has considerable impact on our quality of life and economic prosperity."
Colorado’s economy will be improved by an educated workforce, but a lack of funding is leading to erosion of Colorado’s potential to be a leader in bioscience, high-tech jobs, and new innovations, he said.
Among the highlights of the past year, Colorado State has worked to improve its responsibility to the environment, Penley said. The University has established a sustainability committee to integrate the best methods of environmental stewardship into all campus operations. Most notably, Colorado State announced the purchase and creation of a wind farm that will make Colorado State the first fully wind-powered campus in the nation.
MicroRx, the university’s first Supercluster, was launched in February to focus on finding solutions to global health problems. Penley said he hopes to see the second Supercluster launched over the course of the coming year.
Colorado State is also seeking to add an additional 45 new faculty in the coming year. Combined with 32 new faculty added over the past year, the result is an 8 percent increase in faculty growth. Also, faculty and staff will receive a 5 percent raise in pay, pending approval from Colorado State’s Board of Governors, a move Penley said would move faculty salaries closer to the average of peer institutions
Penley emphasized that, even with funding challenges, the University can’t adopt an "oh, poor me" attitude-but must instead take responsibility for its own future and success. An example of this, he said, are the new facilities the campus has been able to develop with support from a variety of sources. a new academic village will open to students in the fall; construction has begun on the final phase of the University Center for the Arts; a new federally funded biocontainment laboratory is set to open on the Foothills campus in October; and Ammons Hall has been transformed into a welcome center for prospective students and their parents.
"Colorado State University, despite the budget difficulties, is in very good shape," Penley said.