Jan 252004
Authors: Jason Kosena, Kyle Endres

On the coffee table of CSU President Larry Penley’s office rests

the book “Colorado 1870-2000.”

A favorite among many Coloradans, the book is a collection of

photographs taken of historic and picturesque locations in Colorado

by William Henry Jackson during the 1860s.

Accompanying every photo taken by Jackson is a duplicate taken

in the same exact place by Fielder 130 years later, demonstrating

the changing landscape and infrastructure of Colorado since


Fielder looks at the present by exploring the past. Penley’s

situation is similar, except he is looking toward the future by

exploring CSU’s position today.

Penley has come to his new job from Arizona and is following in

the footsteps of former President Albert C. Yates. Arriving last

summer, Penley inherited a university in the midst of change and

during a state financial crisis.

Despite certain woes, Penley sees CSU in the future as an

institution with the same dedication to excellence it has today,

but also as an internationally recognized research facility.

“We (will) be one of the finest internationally recognized

research universities in this country, recognized for the kind of

excellence that we already have in atmospheric sciences, that we

already have in infectious disease, and extend that to other areas

in biomedical sciences,” Penley said in an interview with The

Collegian Thursday.

Penley said doing this would require CSU to continue its

dedication to bringing international students to CSU and by

employing more classes dealing with globalization in standard

departmental curriculum.

“Further you really want close relationships with excellent

partner schools outside the United States where both faculty and

students want to go,” he said.

But before CSU can get to the international status Penley is

seeking, it must deal with the severe financial hurdles in its path

right now.

State budget revenue for higher education has been decreasing

steadily because of restrictions from the Taxpayer’s Bill of

Rights. TABOR restricts CSU’s ability to raise tuition because

tuition is considered state income and can therefore be distributed

among all the state’s residents.

“I don’t think most students and parents understand that when

you pay your tuition bill in Colorado, that tuition revenue counts

as TABOR revenue,” Penley said. “I think most of us understand and

believe that when we pay tuition revenue, that’s going to support

our education, not to be redistributed to our neighbor, who does

not have a student in school.”

As a way to work with the financial vise TABOR puts state

universities in, a bill is being considered for proposal to the

Colorado General Assembly that would possibly alleviate the

pressure. The College Opportunity Fund would establish a voucher

program for high school students and allow universities to gain

enterprise status.


The voucher program would give high school students a $2,500

stipend for use at Colorado public college tuition, in its most

recent published status. The students would receive the money

instead of it being given directly to the universities.

Penley said he would support the College Opportunity Fund if it

contained four basic principles. The first principle deals with

vouchers as a way to track enrollment growth and the second as a

way to encourage access to higher education.

“One of the things that we hope will happen is that in Colorado,

people will understand more readily that the state is funding

higher education, not as well as we would like, but funding higher

education, and that will result in more individuals seeking out

higher education opportunities and getting a college degree,” he


“Vouchers are a good idea or stipends are a good idea because it

attracts money with enrollment growth. I think a lot of people

misunderstand the cost, not that the cost of going to school is

cheap, it’s not, but I think people often even overestimate what

the price of an education is. What the vouchers will do is to help

to communicate the price of education to people so that access

increases, people can afford to go to school.”

The third principle Penley mentioned was that the bill should

account for and embrace the different missions of Colorado

universities. He sees CSU as a “large, public, research

university,” and thus it has a different objective from other state


“We are not the same as any other university here in Colorado,”

he said. “So we need a bill that recognizes that we are different

and that also has money associated with that special mission that

Colorado State University has, not just to Colorado, but to the

Rocky Mountain Region.”

Enterprise status


Another aspect of the bill would allow universities to gain

enterprise status. This would free the university from TABOR

restrictions by allowing it to control its own surpluses.

Universities would also be free to raise tuition by more than in

years past.

Penley’s fourth principle would require that the bill increase

flexibility for universities as enterprises.

“We all know tuition has gone up the last few years. Would it go

up some (under enterprise status), yes,” Penley said. “But I’ve

made a real commitment that if we raise tuition, a substantial

proportion of that will be driven back into scholarships.”

The raise in tuition would help cover money the university would

no longer receive from the state.

“I realize we don’t want tuition to go up very much, that’s not

in anyone’s interests, student or president, but right now we are

at 72 percent of the average of our peers, and among 17 schools

we’re 17th. From an enterprise point of views, tuition is less

restricted,” Penley said.

Penley wants students to know that despite increased tuition and

major budget cutbacks, the administration is operating at minimal

costs as it is. Therefore money going to the administration cannot

be cut back anymore.

“With the efficiency level that we have in the administrative

end, one can’t cut the costs there anymore, unless we get rid of

presidents and deans. Maybe that would be a good idea,” Penley said

with a laugh. “I’m joking of course.”

Whether joking around or in all seriousness, there is much in

front of Penley and CSU before the university’s future is realized.

Look in Tuesday’s Collegian for part two of this series.


bgcolor=”#c0c0c0″ width=”85%”>

This is part one of a two-part series The

Collegian is running this week exploring CSU President Larry

Penley’s thoughts on current and future university issues.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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