CMU funding slides
Foster: All universities should be equal
Colorado Mesa University can lay claim to being the fastest-growing university in Colorado, but it also holds the less-stellar distinction of experiencing the largest decline in per-student funding from the state over the last four years.
The average amount of money CMU has received from the state for each in-state, full-time-equivalent student has dropped 47 percent, from $5,286 in 2009 to $2,824 this year, according to figures provided by the university.
That reduction is the steepest among the state’s nine four-year public colleges and universities, and the $2,824 per-student average CMU received this fiscal year is the second-least next to Metropolitan State University of Denver, which received $2,279.
“For many institutions, this is becoming an increasingly poignant question,” CMU President Tim Foster said Tuesday during an hourlong meeting with The Daily Sentinel’s editorial board.
Foster said the traditional thinking behind the state’s per-student funding seems to be that research institutions like the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines are more expensive to operate. The other side of the issue, he noted, is that those universities tend to draw more affluent students who can afford to pay more of their own expenses.
Foster said he questions the wisdom of paying more per-student to schools like Western State Colorado University and Adams State University that have significantly lower enrollments than CMU and other colleges and universities.
He believes the state should give its public colleges and universities the same amount of money per student.
He said he and others have talked to Joe Garcia, the state’s lieutenant governor and executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, about the discrepancy, “but that’s a deaf ear on that one.”
The continued slide in state funding for higher education hasn’t caused CMU to back off from an aggressive expansion schedule. There are a number of projects the university is pursuing in the coming months and years:
■ CMU has asked the state for $18.4 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year to renovate and expand the 28-year-old Tomlinson Library, with plans to provide a $6 million match in university cash. The project is expected to include a second student dining facility.
■ The first phase of a four-phase renovation and expansion of the Maverick Center and Hamilton Recreation Center will be completed this summer. Foster said he expects the university to spend roughly $6 million adding group exercise space, cardio machines and new locker rooms.
■ One year after opening the 209-bed Garfield Hall on the east side of Cannell Avenue between Elm and Texas avenues, the university is in the process of building another 209-bed residence hall next to Garfield Hall. Roughly half of it will open in the fall, with the balance to open in the spring of 2015.
CMU’s residence halls are at or near full occupancy, even though the university has more than doubled the number of beds on campus in the last eight years.
Foster said the plan is to eventually flip over to the west side of Cannell and construct another 400 or so beds in phases.
“You want to have beds, but you don’t want to have too many empty beds,” he said.
■ To accommodate that future housing and other buildings, CMU has applied to the city of Grand Junction to vacate Cannell between Texas and Kennedy avenues. The Planning Commission is expected to consider the request next month and make a recommendation to the City Council.
CMU continues to acquire property between Cannell and Seventh Street and North and Orchard avenues, setting aside $1.5 million annually for that purpose.
Foster said the university expects to encounter some opposition to the partial vacation of Cannell.
“You know this is where the community has said we’re going to grow. Is it fair to you (property owners near Cannell)? Yes and no. As we grow, we’re going to have to close these streets,” he said.
CMU’s enrollment, based on a straight head count, has shot up from 5,764 in 2003 to 9,861 this year.