President Hank Brown knows how to soften up a crowd.
In an open forum this week, Brown announced that $1 million to be used for capital construction at UCCS will be transferred from the CU System to UCCS.
“You have tremendous needs here,” Brown told a group of 75 faculty and staff. “I hope you will view this as a sign of how inspired we are at the System about the work that you are doing.”
The $1 million boost to the UCCS building fund was discussed during CU Board of Regents meetings this fall but was not formally announced. The monies will be used for previously approved campus construction projects, according to Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.
Brown’s announcement was a highlight in a broad-ranging discussion that coincided with his six-month anniversary as CU’s president.
Brown lauded the campus for its involvement with the greater Colorado Springs community including interaction with industry and the military. He also lauded teaching efforts that have resulted in UCCS alumni earning high marks on state and national professional examinations and the diligence of faculty and staff during three years of cutbacks.
“U.S. News and World Report’s recognition of this campus is no accident,” Brown said. “This campus has a bright future. I am thankful for the opportunity to be in some small way a part of that.”
Brown, a former U.S. senator and Colorado state representative, also reflected on changing attitudes and the pressures placed on higher education.
“When I was a legislator, higher education accounted for 26.5 percent of the state’s budget,” Brown said. “Now, that number is closer to 9.5 percent.”
The change, he said, is the result of economic downturns, constitutional spending limitations, and amendments directing funds to K-12 education – not a lack of confidence in higher education.
And while optimistic about the future, Brown was cautious about expectations for additional state funding. In response to a question from Carole Schoffstall, dean, Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Brown said he did not expect Colorado to move from its low rank among states for funding of higher education or that state support will return to the levels of five years ago. In the 2006 General Assembly, CU will concentrate on obtaining state funds for capital construction and compensation for previously unfunded increases in enrollment.
Brown encouraged those in attendance to remember the importance of higher education, calling it a cornerstone of civilization and a noble endeavor.
“You are involved in a special endeavor,” Brown said. “I thank you for what you have done, for the progress that you have made, and for what you will do in the future.”