In the last two years, at least 20 presidents from Colorado’s public, private and community colleges have retired or resigned, two in the last six months, including CSU President Albert C. Yates.
While this number may seem extreme, David Longanecker, executive director for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, said Colorado does not top other western states in average turnover of presidents. Longanecker conducted research on the turnover of college presidents for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Both Yates and Grand Junction’s Mesa State College President Michael Gallagher have resigned this year. Yates, who announced his resignation this month, will remain at CSU until June 30, while Gallagher will step down from his post effective Dec. 21.
The two presidents join a number of college administrators leaving their positions. The University of Colorado System inaugurated a new president in 2000, and the University of Southern Colorado and Colorado College boast new administrations as of this year.
“Within our community college network is where you’ll see a significant turnover,” said Theresa Cusimano, executive director for Colorado Campus Compact, a consortium of college presidents. Of the 20 presidents who left their respective colleges, eight were from community colleges and two were from junior colleges.
According to Longanecker’s research, within the four-year sector, Colorado ranks below the regional average of western states with a 25 percent turnover rate compared to a regional average of 28 percent from 1999-2002.
Unfortunately, in the two-year college division, the state ranks high above the average with an 86 percent turnover as compared to a regional average of 54 percent during those three years.
Some college presidents resigned to accept other positions within the Colorado educational field in order to have even more of a presence in the system, and the quality of successors is in no way diminishing, Longanecker said.
“There are exceptional people replacing those who are leaving,” he said.
Longanecker also said it is important to keep in mind that often when presidents retire or resign, most do not do so to leave a particularly rough situation but instead, like Yates, leave for personal reasons, wanting to spend time with family or to retire.
“Frankly, neither my research nor my sense of things suggested (presidents) are leaving because of a state situation,” he said.
Yet other presidents feel increasing amounts of pressure accompanied by decreasing resources in education, including budget cuts.
In data gathered by the Compact, Harry Peterson, who left Western State College in 2002, cited decreased enrollment in small colleges and a scramble for funding as added stresses for the average administrator.
“Small colleges don’t have the buffer of a large research university, which also has research and contract funding,” he said. “Perhaps a new college president will be effective in obtaining funding for (Western State College).”
In his speech announcing his retirement, Yates did not address detailed reasons for retiring but expressed a desire to spend more time reading, writing and raising his two daughters, as well as a need to “smile just a little bit more.”
-Edited by Vince Blaser and Becky Waddingham
Colleges or Universities since 2000 whose presidents have retired or resigned
Source: The Colorado Campus Compact
1) Arapahoe Community College*
2) Aims Community College
3) Colorado College
4) Colorado Community College System
5) Community College of Aurora
6) Community College of Denver
7) Fort Lewis College*
8) Lamar Community College
9) Otero Junior College
10) Pikes Peak Community College
11) Pueblo Community College
12) Red Rocks Community College
13) Trinidad State Junior College
14) University of Colorado at Colo. Springs
15) University of Colorado System
16) University of Northern Colorado
17) University of Southern Colorado
18) Western State College
* These colleges had two presidents resign or retire since 2000.