Elliman emphasizes student success in State of the University speech


Putting student success at the core of the university's mission while taking creative approaches to the funding puzzle were central themes of Chancellor Don Elliman's State of the University address on Monday.

He spoke at the King Center and again in the Terrace Room. Lilly Marks, vice president of health affairs at the University of Colorado and executive vice chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus, delivered a State of the University address in the Trivisible Room later in the day.

Elliman began by highlighting accomplishments at the “relatively young” CU Denver campus. He noted that enrollment has grown from 12,000 students in 2005 to more than 14,000 today -- the majority of growth in undergraduate students. He said that for the first time, the university is creating the physical infrastructure to meet its needs, including the opening of the Business School and the Academic Building One, set for groundbreaking in January.

The gains come despite a shrinking budget. In 2008-09, we received $33 million from the state's general fund, or 18 percent of our total budget, Elliman said. Today, the university receives $21 million, a one-third reduction, and the state general fund is 8.6 percent of our budget.

“It's a fundamental and inescapable reality: We are underfunded no matter how you look at it -- compared to our peer institutions in other states, compared to other institutions in this state, compared to ourselves even five years ago,” he said.

Diversifying funding streams is one of five campuswide areas of focus for the coming year, Elliman said. The others are interdisciplinary and multiprofessional programs; technology; better marketing CU Denver and solidifying our brand; and, most critically, student success.

The university needs to continue to ramp up enrollment, including in the key areas of out-of-state and international students, Elliman said. Other revenue-growth opportunities come through philanthropy -- CU Denver should aim to raise $20 million annually from philanthropy, Elliman said -- new curricular partnerships and increased funding from research grants.

Elliman said CU Denver continues to develop relevant programs that leverage our assets. Examples include the new undergraduate degree programs in architecture and bioengineering and plans for programs in construction engineering management and hospital management0

"I can't say this strongly enough, we have huge advantage in our ability to marry experiential learning with interdisciplinary programs. We have to find more ways to build on that advantage."

He said CU Denver has three committees studying technology issues, part of the systemwide initiative launched by President Bruce Benson. The committees are focused on IT infrastructure and support systems, education technology and the question of technology as a disruptive force. How we use technology has implications on initiatives ranging from cost-effectiveness to increasing access and increasing student support.

"If we don't start thinking carefully and without prejudice on these issues, we are betting our future on a hope that our world will not significantly change," Elliman said. "I like to hope, but I think it is a lousy premise for strategic planning."

On the brand front, Elliman said, CU Denver is raising its profile through an undergraduate enrollment campaign which will soon by married with an image campaign.

He called student success the "soul" of CU Denver's work, and the highest mission to ensure that success through a comprehensive and cohesive strategy.

"Our commitment to student success will mean enhancing student access, increasing student enrollment, improving student satisfaction, increasing student retention and graduation rates and improving student career services."

Elliman took several questions from the audience, with topics at the King Center including revenue streams, relieving the cost burden on working students, globalization of education and the marketing initiative.

On scholarships, he said, "I think we have kind of a moral obligation for people who come here to have an opportunity to finish here, and scholarship funding is clearly a part of that. We don’t have anywhere near enough of it right now and it ought to be a big focus of ours."

He said creative approaches are necessary to counter the decrease in state funding. "We're going to have to be creative and try to think about how we move forward. The two most obvious areas are probably enrollment growth and some forms of partnerships with the community."

During his presentation, Elliman highlighted achievements in each of the university's schools and colleges. He said the university needs to tell its story far and wide to ensure Coloradans understand its value.

"What’s going on here is so good that not telling anybody about it really is an opportunity lost," he said. "... I just think that you can't ask people to support an institution if they don’t know anything about it. We need to tell our story."

To see Elliman's complete State of the University presentation, click here.

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