The new leader of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education
said he sees resolving the budget crisis and providing financial
and preparatory assistance to disadvantaged students as two of his
top future concerns with higher education.
Gov. Bill Owens appointed Rick O’Donnell to take over as
executive director of the organization, and O’Donnell started his
new position Tuesday. He took over for Tim Foster, who stepped down
to accept the presidential position at Mesa State College in Grand
O’Donnell, a graduate of Colorado College in Colorado Springs,
first served Owens as the director of Governor’s Office of Policy
and Initiatives and later as executive director of the state’s
Department of Regulatory Agencies. He also serves as director of
the Fund for Colorado’s Future, a non-profit organization that
works to aid students in schools that do not perform as well as
others. He also teaches English as a second language to
Spanish-speaking persons at the Samaritan House homeless
In a statement to the press, Owens said he is confidant
O’Donnell’s successes in K-12 education reform will be matched
during his involvement in higher education.
“Higher education is different from K-12, but they have similar
goals,” O’Donnell said. “They tackle problems in a similar way,
building bridges with shareholders, finding consensus and find
where we can agree to disagree.”
Gerard Bomotti, vice president of Administrative Services at
CSU, said he has not yet met O’Donnell but knows they will be
working together as more decisions are made in the Colorado General
Assembly regarding the upcoming budget. Bomotti said he believes
the General Fund budget, tuition increases and vouchers will be
issues at the forefront for O’Donnell.
“Certainly as legislature is creating their budget, CCHE is
going to be working closely with (the Board of Governors for the
CSU System),” Bomotti said.
O’Donnell is accepting the position in the midst of a tumultuous
point in higher education’s budget crisis. In addition to resolving
the budget crisis and providing assistance to disadvantaged
students, he said making sure higher education is affordable to
middle-class students is a high priority.
“(Students) need more than just financial aid,” O’Donnell said.
“We need to make sure they are college-prepared and
O’Donnell said that getting the College Opportunity Fund passed,
a bill in the legislature that proposes a voucher system for
Colorado high school graduates, is a priority.
“One concern is that higher education has adequate funds,”
O’Donnell said. “We need to make sure that higher education, in
tough budget times, is being treated fairly.”
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education is responsible for
28 different public two-year and four-year colleges and
universities that enroll approximately 275,000 students