Feb 232005
Authors: Larry Edward Penley

Imagine you own a car – a reliable vehicle you worked hard to buy and depend on for transportation.

Now consider what might happen if, for three years running, you weren't able to invest any money to take care of it … to change the oil, rotate the tires, fix cracks in the windshield. While you might be able to get by for a short time ignoring these little maintenance and repair issues, it wouldn't be long before you'd start to face some much more serious problems. The quality and value of your vehicle would quickly erode.

The quality and value of your CSU education also require ongoing care and investment. CSU now faces a situation not unlike the example I just described. From 1992-2002, the state of Colorado provided nearly $350 million to address CSU facilities needs – a substantial investment that helped improve some classrooms, expand the library, update buildings like Rockwell Hall and Ammons Hall, and allowed the university to address ongoing and critical maintenance issues.

For the past three years, however, the state has not been able to invest one dime in our campus facilities. And mounting pressures on the state budget make it unlikely this trend will be reversed in the foreseeable future. In short, CSU cannot expect any more state money to maintain and repair its academic buildings and classrooms.

Like those simple car repairs, this isn't a situation one can ignore for long. Already, the university is facing a critical backlog of maintenance totaling more than $136 million, and it is rising every day. It is critical we do all we can, beginning today, to ensure a learning environment that supports the long-term quality and value of your degree. A great university requires great facilities, and students have the opportunity now to make their mark on the future look and feel of the CSU campus

Wednesday night, I discussed a proposal for a new facilities fee with members of the Associated Students of CSU, and my hope today is to share the same information with the general student body. The university is proposing a new student fee that would be used specifically to support maintenance, improvement and construction of educational facilities, with an emphasis on projects that most directly benefit students above all.

Here's how the proposed fee would work:

* A fee of $10 per credit hour ($150 per semester for students taking an average, 15-hour course load) would generate $7 million each year.

* Out of each dollar raised, 64 cents would go to finance $54 million of new-facility construction. The other 36 cents out of each dollar would fund small, annual projects at the rate of $2.5 million per year, so that students could expect to see an immediate return on their investment.

* Students would have a voice in how the money was spent through an advisory committee, similar to the University Technology Fee Advisory Board.

* The university would use this fee to help persuade alumni, donors and other funding partners to invest in supporting critical campus needs. In other words, CSU can leverage your contributions into even more money to fund campus improvements.

* The fee would go directly to those areas that most impact students – classroom upgrades to the Clark, Rockwell, Visual Arts, Animal Sciences, Shepardson, Guggenheim buildings and more; enhanced facilities, such as improved parking access; and brand-new facilities.

* Every academic college would benefit from this fee.

You can find more information about the fee and its implementation online at http://www.president.colostate.edu/proposed_facilities_fee.

This university offers a great education, and its classrooms ought to reflect that. How important is this issue? Recently, a faculty member told me about the student evaluations he routinely receives every semester from a course he teaches in the Clark Building. While students are generally very positive about the course and its value to their education, nearly all complain about the quality of the facilities. Another faculty member has reported that he lost his voice trying to teach in a classroom with an inadequate sound system. These stories are not unfamiliar to students who have shared these experiences. It's time for a change.

We have an opportunity today to take the future into our own hands and invest in the quality and look of this campus. We have an opportunity to ensure that the learning environment continues to reinforce the value of a CSU education. And we have an opportunity to make changes that will begin today, not 10 years down the road.

But only student leadership will make this happen.

Larry Penley is the president of CSU and chancellor for the Colorado State University System.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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