LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Letter from President Benson

Issue: 

Dear Members of the University of Colorado Community,

CU President Bruce D. BensonAs we approach the end of the academic year and commencement, I want to thank each of you for all your efforts. Even though we face fiscal challenges, your dedication and hard work allow CU to continue to provide a high-quality education for our students and substantial value for our state and beyond.

As you may know, the Board of Regents late last month approved tuition for the 2012-13 academic year. Rate increases will be 5 percent or below on all our campuses, which reflects our commitment to keeping a CU education affordable. Total cost of attendance (including tuition and room and board) is increasing less than 3 percent. The board also unanimously approved a 2 percent salary pool for faculty and exempt staff. I appreciate the regents’ recognition of the hard work of faculty and staff and the importance of ensuring salaries remain fair and competitive. I want to thank the Board of Regents for its leadership on these issues.

Under the salary plan, exempt professionals earning less than $100,000 are eligible for merit raises. Exempt professionals earning between $100,000 and $175,000 are eligible for merit increases of no more than $2,000. Exempt professionals earning more than $175,000 are not eligible for an increase. The faculty pool is 2 percent, regardless of salary level. You will hear more specifics soon from your campus and department.

I recognize the salary pool does not include our classified employees; we are limited in what we can do. However, some action at the Capitol will help classified employees. Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Legislature allowed the 2.5 percent shift in PERA contributions from employer to employees to expire. On July 1 those in PERA will have that amount restored to base salary. Additionally, efficiency legislation the General Assembly passed in 2011 allowed CU to shift responsibility for benefit plans for classified employees from the state to the university. The result is a decrease, in some cases substantial, in health plan costs for classified employees who were in state plans.

We are committed to ensuring our health plans remain a good value for CU employees. This year, our increase in health plan costs averages 5.5 percent, which is below the national, state and public university averages. This was possible because of the performance of the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust. Because of legislative action directing an increased employer contribution, most of you will see a decrease in your monthly health plan rates in the coming fiscal year. As a reminder, open enrollment this year requires you to affirm your benefits by May 25, even if you are not making changes.

The 2012 legislative regular session ends today, and Colorado public higher education and CU are faring better at the end of the session than they were at the beginning. In the governor’s November budget, higher education faced $60 million in cuts (half to financial aid, half to operating). Positive revenue forecasts in December and March lessened the cuts. CU’s 2012-13 budget will likely be reduced about $5.8 million. We appreciate the work of the governor, Joint Budget Committee and legislators in reducing the cut to higher education. We are still on the wrong side of the state funding equation (cuts), but smaller than expected reductions resulted in smaller than expected tuition increases.

We promoted a notable piece of legislation that passed this session, House Bill 1350, which allows some dependents of active duty military personnel to attend any CU campus at resident tuition rates. We recognize what active duty military personnel do on our behalf and are happy to extend this benefit to the children of the men and women serving our country.

In recognition of the service of our employees, CU is also providing tuition benefits for dependents of employees, effective this summer. The plan is a first step toward what we hope will become a robust program. We have asked faculty and staff governance groups to assist us with its assessment and to make recommendations this fall.

We continue to do a good job helping ourselves manage our budget. Our continual focus on operational efficiencies has allowed CU to realize millions in savings in areas such as purchasing, health plan costs and risk management, among others. We are also creating more public-private partnerships that allow us to leverage funding and meet the needs of the state and the business community. Legislation we promoted in previous years allows us to increase the number of nonresident and international students on all campuses, bringing additional revenue.

I particularly want to thank all those who have an increased workload. Staff are taking on added responsibilities. Many faculty are teaching additional courses and doing more advising. I appreciate how the CU community is stepping up in difficult times.

Our Creating Futures fundraising campaign, which launched publicly slightly more than a year ago, recently eclipsed the $1.1 billion mark toward our $1.5 billion goal. I know many members of the university community are also donors to CU and I appreciate the investments you make to add value to our educational and research enterprises.

We are also seeing the benefits of our branding effort, which is less than a year and a half into implementation. The visual images of the university and messages we present today are much more effective and efficient than the previous mishmash of logos and communications, which confused our community of supporters. The branding project has brought clarity and consistency to our efforts. However, branding is a process not an event, so I urge the university community to continue to work toward presenting the University of Colorado in ways that promote our collective strength.

The CU Advocates program is another way to tell our story and marshal support of those interested in helping us. If you are not already a member, please join at www.cu.edu/cuadvocates and lend your voice and efforts to the thousands of CU supporters working to convey our value, tell our stories and articulate our challenges. The program is one way we are stepping up our outreach, which helps raise our profile, as well as bring us students and donors. Our new Ecommunication program also allows us to communicate better with our constituents and, as important, ensure we have current and accurate contact data for them.

I am proud of the way members of the university community deliver a first-rate educational experience and provide exceptional value to Colorado and beyond. In these challenging times, you continue to meet a standard of excellence that has been the hallmark of CU for 136 years. Your efforts serve our students and state extremely well. Thank you again for what you do to ensure the greatness of our university.

For feedback, contact officeofthepresident@cu.edu

Sincerely,

Bruce D. Benson
President