Staff Council hears details on UCCS strategic plan

Campus growth, identity among issues being addressed

A strategic plan that carries the University of Colorado Colorado Springs into 2020 is geared toward accommodating current growth, shoring up diminishing funding from the state and maintaining the institution’s identity with an emphasis on personal touch.

Homer Wesley, UCCS vice chancellor for student success and enrollment management, presented a briefing on the plan to the University of Colorado Staff Council at its regular meeting Thursday, Nov. 17, on the UCCS campus.

The strategic plan is expected to be completed by April 2012.

Wesley said it is important for the university to continue to balance student needs and offer a breadth of experience while still maintaining the university’s cultural goals.

“We were founded to serve a more local purpose, and documents from way back show that about 50 percent of new freshmen would be from a 30-mile radius of Colorado Springs,” he said, but that’s changing rapidly. He said students from 44 countries attend UCCS and applications for fall freshmen are up 250 percent. Fall growth, he said, came from students in Colorado, but not in the Colorado Springs area, and from out-of-state students, especially those from California.

“As we look at our culture, we like the idea of personal touch with students and we think that’s what we’re supposed to be about. Our personal identity as we grow has to be managed with this idea that we will be bigger,” he said. In addition, he said, community input is necessary and valuable to the plan’s outcome.

Part of the master plan includes physical facilities. Over the past five years, Wesley said, $140 million has been dedicated to building projects that include new and renovated structures on the campus’s 550-acre footprint. Those projects include two new housing towers, athletic facilities and an academic building in partnership with Peak Health and others.

He said growth also will be defined by online and teleconferencing courses, as well as weekend programming.

Wesley said it’s also important for the university to backfill funding that the state used to provide. While state support once was as high as 50 percent, it now sits at about 10 percent. The gap will be filled in part by tuition, especially from out-of-state students, and from private giving.

“We feel access is important,” said Wesley, adding that the university has to address the gap between education costs and financial aid, especially for students who need the most help. “A greater burden of higher education is shifting back to users. One short-term solution is to take a portion of the tuition and put it back” into financial packages the university provides to students. In addition, he said, more students will have to seek funding from outside sources, including scholarships or part-time jobs.

In other matters, the council:

-- Again discussed drafting a resolution that would make the Board of Regents aware of the negative implications to employees when the board supports financial changes that affect the university. The discussion stems from a continued 2.5 percent contribution shift for PERA. For the past two years, employees have paid not only their defined share, but a portion of the university’s contribution to the Public Employees Retirement Association.

-- Discussed volunteer projects that could be performed on each campus under the sponsorship of the council. The group settled on assembling care packages for military personnel in the spring of 2012. Council still is trying to clarify how many paid hours, if any, each campus allows for employees to conduct service work. Boulder employees, for instance, are allowed 16 volunteer hours each year.

-- Council Chair Carla Johnson reiterated the importance of representative attendance at council meetings. “I want to begin evaluating those people who are currently listed as UCSC representatives who have not been in attendance. Our bylaws state specifically that if a person has not attended three or more meetings in a 12-month period, we may decide to remove that person from UCSC,” she said. Johnson said that while she understands the issues, including long commutes between campuses and heavier workloads, she also stressed that each council member brings a different perspective to the meetings, which is an important aspect of the representative body.

-- Looked at existing Board of Regent policies and laws, along with university policies, that could be integral to future council discussions. Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed changes in hiring and firing procedures for state employees, and Johnson said it is important that council has input into any policy revisions, especially as more employees move from classified to exempt status. Performance management policies should be outlined and specific, as well as enforceable, she said. Hickenlooper has suggested changes to current state hiring requirements, bumping rights and temporary employment.