Health care, STEM education in CU spotlight as U.S. lawmakers convene

University team eyes big picture, small details as 2010 sessions begin at Capitol

As delegates from Colorado and the rest of the country return to Capitol Hill this week, the University of Colorado's Office of Government Relations begins a new year of work aimed at securing federal funding for initiatives at campuses in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver.

The office also will closely monitor big-picture topics that hold long-term ramifications for CU, not the least of which is health care reform.

"It impacts everything from work done by our faculty, to student health care plans to health insurance coverage for university employees and reimbursement rates," said David Sprenger, senior director of federal relations.

Noted Lynne Lyons, director of federal relations, an expansion of health care coverage throughout the country would exacerbate already serious shortages of medical professionals. Sen. Michael Bennet on Friday, Jan. 15, hosted a health care jobs forum at the University of Denver, where he invited UC Denver Chancellor Roy M. Wilson to join in a roundtable discussion of work force shortages and the importance of residencies.

The Office of Government Relations also plans to build on momentum generated by President Obama's recent gathering of higher-education leaders distinguished for work on STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — education. Two CU chancellors — Philip P. DiStefano of Boulder and Pam Shockley-Zalabak of Colorado Springs — earlier this month attended the White House announcement of a major initiative that expands the president's Educate to Innovate campaign, aimed at fast-tracking the nation's focus on STEM education.

"The White House recognizes the leadership that those campuses play in STEM training and increasing the work force," Sprenger said. "We're working closely with Boulder and Colorado Springs to ensure proper resources are available. We'll be watching upcoming higher education legislation and support continued funding of current programs. We also want to work to make funds available to sponsor new, innovative programs aimed at increasing the work force. On those issues, we're working with the appropriate committees, members of the Colorado delegation and the Department of Education."

While specifics on funding requests for the next fiscal year won't be final until next month, CU hopes to build on successful appropriations made during last year's session. Those projects and the money secured are:

CU-Boulder: Smart Grid Communications Security Project, $1 million; Colorado Schools Safety Program, $500,000

UC Denver: Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, $1.5 million; Physician Pipeline for Rural Colorado, $575,000

UCCS: SupportNet for Frontline Providers of Traumatic Stress at Fort Carson, $2.4 million

Other projects: Colorado Drug, Diagnostic, and Device Development Institute, $300,000; eSpace: Center for Space Entrepreneurship, $1.6 million; I-225/Colfax Interchange, $850,000.