CCHE – New Director

Mar 282004
Authors: Chris Kampfe

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


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