Higher ed may try to tap voters

University of Colorado president Bruce Benson speaks to the Rotary Club of Grand Junction 
on Wednesday.

Leaders of higher education in Colorado are considering a ballot measure in 2014, the head of the University of Colorado said Wednesday.

The exact shape of such a measure, however, is far from clear, Bruce Benson told the Grand Junction Rotary Club on Wednesday.

“There are probably some incremental things we could do,” Benson said.

It’s unlikely that such a measure would ask voters to make significant changes, Benson later told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel.

“The big fix doesn’t seem to work,” he said.

Voters, however, might be asked to consider following the leads of smaller institutions that have local taxing districts.

Aims Community College and Colorado Mountain College both are supported by local taxing districts and have higher per-student funding than CU, Benson said.

“I still worry about smaller schools,” Benson said. “If funding keeps going down, we’ll lose them.”

The University of Colorado receives about $150 million in state support, or about 6 percent of its budget, Benson noted.

Benson declined to take a position on the measure on this year’s ballot to raise $1 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade.

While higher education might benefit from the repeal of automatic increases for K-12 schools in Amendment 23, the CU Board of Regents appears to be split on the measure, Benson said.

CU and other universities also are likely to be affected by the advent of massive open online courses, he said.

Those courses are attracting thousands of students and offer the potential of delivering education at far lesser costs than classrooms in traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, Benson said.

“It’s looking like the wave of the future,” Benson said.

Still, a 100 percent online curriculum for a traditional student “is not a good idea,” he said.

Benson’s visit, called “CU for Colorado,” was aimed at highlighting the university’s activities across the state.

In addition to the university’s joint mechanical-engineering program with Colorado Mesa University and its Western Colorado Area Health Education Center in Grand Junction. the university has more than 200 programs serving communities around the state, Benson said.

Benson also touted the apparent success of CU students, noting that the student-loan default rate of its graduates is in the 3 percent range, below the national average.

“My guess is that if you’re paying on a loan, you have a job,” Benson said.


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