Board approves CMU capital request

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education unanimously approved a capital construction request from Colorado Mesa University on Tuesday, the first of many hurdles to secure funding for a new health sciences building and reverse the commission’s decision to reject the request just two weeks ago.

The commission reviews, prioritizes and approves capital construction requests from public colleges and universities before the requests are considered for funding by the Colorado Legislature.

Colorado Mesa’s Board of Trustees voted to submit the request on April 6, one day before the commission was scheduled to meet and a week after trustees approved a tentative exploration of adding physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant graduate programs to the university’s offerings.

Normally, public colleges and universities submit construction requests in the fall for projects prioritized and approved in the spring.

But upon learning that the new programs could be accredited as soon as 2018, the Board of Trustees voted to submit a construction request at the last minute.

CMU President Tim Foster said the commission’s initial denial was because of miscommunication — CMU was not trying to jump in front of other institutions with funding requests, or even ask for any prioritization, but was rather trying to adapt to quickly changing circumstances.

“They had questions and they were trying to be consistent with policies and procedures,” Foster said. “It’s hard sometimes for boards to go outside of the norm and be flexible, but you have to give them credit, they found a way to do that.”

Commissioner Mary Beth Buescher said the lingering questions among commissioners were cleared up after meeting with Foster on Tuesday.

“(We) approved President Foster’s request after a lot of clarifications that unfortunately the commission didn’t have the first time,” she said. “This time, President Foster was great in clarifying everything and setting up a process that he agreed to and everyone else agreed would be very fair. I am delighted that this passed.”

The construction request will now go before legislators for consideration.

Foster credited community feedback and the support of other universities with helping to effectively communicate Colorado Mesa’s request.

“(The commissioners) received a lot of communication from folks in western Colorado and were very supportive of what we’re trying to get accomplished over here,” Foster said.

Foster said the next step is waiting to see if more funding becomes available in the state budget for capital construction.

Trustees Betty Bechtel, Tillie Bishop, Kelly Brough, Kathleen Eck, Jose Marquez, Ray Martinez, Doug Quimby, David Reed, Joan Ringel, Dan Robinson and Bob Wilson did not respond to a request for comment on the commission’s decision.


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