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Touting such healthy vital signs as record enrollment that includes more Colorado residents than any other state university, Colorado State University President Tony Frank on Wednesday urged the campus and Fort Collins community to stay focused on fundamentals during the economic crisis. He also made it clear that several issues facing voters on the November ballot could have a severe impact on Colorado State.
Colorado State is committed to academic excellence, a world-class education and sharing intellectual capital of the faculty for the state’s benefit, Frank said in his annual Fall Address.
“These themes and the fundamentals will keep alive CSU’s heritage of opening doors, changing lives and transforming the world,” Frank said.
A major challenge is that the university receives 4 percent less to educate a student than it did 20 years ago. As a result, students now pay two-thirds of their public education.
“We are witnesses to a shift away from public support for funding education, with an increasing share of the cost being carried by our students at a time when the value of an educated population in the global economy has never been greater,” Frank said.
He pointed to Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 on the November ballot, which, if passed, will result in a $3.7 billion impact on the state budget. If passed, with 99 percent of the state budget dedicated to K-12 education under state law, the 1 percent remaining must fund everything else including prisons, roads, health care and higher education.
“I can’t – and wouldn’t – stand up here and tell you how to vote, but numerous newspapers, elected officials from both political parties, many local governments, and our Board of Governors have opposed these measures,” Frank said. “If these measures pass, CSU will be a much different, much smaller university, and not for the better.
“I encourage all of you to pay attention to these bills – to read both the pros and the cons – and to weigh the implications on the future of Colorado State University, and the state in which we live.”
After 16 trips to more than 45 cities across the state over the past year – Rotary clubs to editorial boards, diners to county fairs, alumni functions to donor events – Frank said he found residents statewide have an “extremely positive view” of the university.
He also thanked students who were willing to tax themselves for new facilities such as the state-of-the-art Behavioral Sciences Building and the Campus Recreation Center, which opened this fall.
“Our story is also positive, in part, of course, because of our land-grant heritage that reflects the independent spirit and entrepreneurial character of this country – heritage that reflects the American value of merit over social status and economic class,” Frank said. “We can’t, of course, know what the future will hold, but there are reasons for optimism regardless of our economic challenges.”
Other healthy vital signs Frank mentioned Wednesday:
• Donors who have helped raise more than 70 percent of the $500 million goal in the Campaign for Colorado State;
• Private support that helped launch The Commitment to Colorado, a program starting in Fall 2011 that will ensure that those making the median family income or less can still afford a CSU education;
• Record research awards and research expenditures that topped $300 million for a fourth year in a row;
• A more open, transparent, and accountable university – opening up the budget process and engaging anyone who’s interested in planning and budgeting discussions; and
• A new program of employee discounts and benefits – a Commitment to Campus – to thank employees who have gone without pay increases for three years.