Fall 2005 Retreat
“The Wisdom of Practice in Teaching and Learning”
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
Questions from the Teaching Scholars
With President Hank Brown
Mary Ann Shea welcomed the group, noting that this is the 15th year of fall retreats of PTSP. She said she and the Scholars were happy to welcome President Brown to the retreat. “By virtue of President and Mrs. Brown being in the CU community we have guidance, leadership and hospitality,” Shea said. She added that the program also has introduced the new President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative in the past year. “With these new beginnings for CU, for this program, and for the system, I welcome you again to our retreat,” Shea said. Shea said she first met President Brown when they were being interviewing for the Silver & Gold Record supplement. In the interview President Brown said the PTSP program is one of the reasons for the University’s success because it supports learning and teaching. She said the Scholars asked Brown to talk at the retreat about teaching and learning, and about how the PTSP could better serve the president.
Brown: Mary Ann, thank you for letting me come. This process of welcoming new CU presidents is apparently an annual ritual. Since I got out of law school, we’ve had 12 presidents. It’s helpful to put things in perspective. Part of the University is in the classroom and the wonderful research that augments that. It’s not about what makes the newspapers. I think sometimes people tend to forget that and focus on the challenges we’ve had publicly. The heart of the University is functioning well and continues to provide outstanding leadership for the community.
In the last two years we’ve had an exciting time. Last year in a four-month period we had 150 newspaper headlines — not very many of them positive, and supplied more than 94,000 pages of documents. So we’ve been blessed with lots of attention, lots of criticism. The reality is that it’s probably a plus for us because it gives us a chance to look at how we’re doing things.
In the last few months we’ve been trying to take on challenges, get them resolved and put them behind us. That’s what we’ve been doing with things such as the recruiting rules and the alcohol policy. A lifetime friend of mine from law school sent me an e-mail after we made the change in the alcohol policy. He wrote, “You fraud — the University didn’t spend that much money on alcohol, and by the way, congratulations, that was a great move.”
Part of the process is just trying to think through what kind of appearance we’re making to the public. But I think it’s helpful as we go through this to keep in mind that while this has had an impact on our public presence, it’s not what goes on at the heart of the University. We continue to have outstanding faculty and outstanding students. As we continue to go through the challenges, I’m tickled to have another Nobel laureate who is just fantastic.
I thought I would open it up for questions and hear about the things you are feeling.
Lewis: I think what is happening with your leadership with the CU Foundation is absolutely fabulous. It’s just a tremendous development as far as I’m concerned. I’m full of gratitude.
Brown: The Foundation was started by some devoted alums, and there’s been a sense by some of them that the money that has been brought into the Foundation is money they (alone) have brought in. There’s been a sense to think of the Foundation as separate from the University. Their reputation impacts us, and conversely. We’re changing the parameters. We are going to be closer; we are going to work together. One of the big things that hasn’t yet been picked up by the press is that any request for money from the Foundation has to be run through the University. It is a much stricter way of handling funding for the Foundation.
Palmer: With the passage of Referendum C, can you outline the strategies the University system will use to get our fair share of the funding? The governor seems to have designated that money for roads, and the University doesn’t seem to be a priority.
Brown: Good question. Next question. (Scholars laugh) I will refer back to 1976 when higher education got 26.5 percent of its budget from the state. Today we get 9 percent, roughly one-third of what it was 30 years ago. What’s happened is a combination of TABOR, which limits the increase in government spending each year, and Amendment 23 (for K-12 funding), which has strong support in Boulder and Denver but not in Colorado Springs. Referendum C in effect solves one big problem by protecting our base funding. It gives us significantly more money than we would have had. The governor could work out an arrangement with the Legislature to direct some money to higher ed construction. Referendum D not passing apparently didn’t change the governor’s commitment to higher education.
The Legislature used to fund higher education by looking at the cost of programs, and providing funding that was on a par with other institutions. If you had a lower-division course, they would look at what lower-division courses cost at research institutions and compare universities nationwide. CU got higher funding, but we got more on average because our programs were much more expensive. Now [under the College Opportunity Fund], students receive a stipend relating to cost of program, but the stipend is the same for everyone. The problem is that a lower-division program costs dramatically less than an upper-division program at a research university. When you give us the same stipend for the first four years that a community college gets, it’s devastating. The Legislature did away with differentials based on the cost of programs and came up with a standard amount. It’s terribly unfair. They were successful, but they weren’t consistent. CU was greatly impacted by what happened. It’s not just that money for higher education dropped; it’s that we were disproportionately affected. We’ve lost $3,000 in per-student funding in the process. Community colleges started at $2,100 per student, now the stipend is $2,400 — their funding actually increased. In addition, the funding for graduate programs dropped, and while CU was rated outstanding, we did not get performance funding.
What are we going to do? We are going to work to familiarize Colorado Commission on Higher Education staff with the national data on comparative costs of programs. Secondly, we want to find an objective way of allocating funds in a nondiscriminatory way. Thirdly, we will talk to legislators to see if they are interested in finding a more objective way of allocating fee-for-service funding for graduate programs. The CCHE came back with proposal that is helpful. It recommends a 3.1 percent pay increase, 2.2 benefit increase, increases for utilities, and a 2.5 increase in tuition.
We also have to figure out a strategy for reconnecting with the people of Colorado. If you look at nationwide funding for higher education, we are clearly low. I don’t agree with the NEA calculation that we are 49th of the 50 states in terms of funding, but we’re clearly in the bottom 30. We have to address that.
Palmer: Is the tuition mandate just for in-state students? Can we raise tuition for out-of-state students as we wish? The problem is [if we raise their tuition too high] out-of-state students won’t be attracted to CU because there are other places they can go.
Brown: I think you are exactly right. We’re not going to be able to raise out-of-state tuition as we’ve done in the past in order to bail ourselves out of this as we’ve done before. We charge $9,000 more than Colorado State University in non-resident tuition. CSU has different requirements related to students gaining resident status for tuition; we are looking into that for CU.
There is another problem I am concerned about. A few years ago we used to be far more selective in out-of-state students because so many applied that you could demand much higher academic standards than in-state students. As we’ve continued to tap non-resident students for higher funding we abandoned the old model of tuition equals cost of running the institution plus 10 percent. What that meant was you had an incredible student body. We still have an incredible student body but what we’ve done is gone from taking the brightest of the out-of-state students to taking the wealthiest, [those who can afford the high tuition]. I don’t think that is working. We are tied into the revenue, but I do think we’ve damaged the institution by doing this. That’s not something that’s going to be solved in one or five years but I think it diminishes what the University can and should do. Our goal is not to be a great state university but to be a world-class institution.
One of the things institutions do is take a look at all the programs and decide whether they want to run programs that are huge money-losers. Apologies for that language but you understand. The University makes lots of money from arts and sciences at the lower division and uses that money to run graduate programs. Every university has trade offs. Every institution can get into a squeeze like this, but you end up damaging the reputation of your strongest programs.
Shull: Look maybe five or 10 years over the horizon — what should we be telling the new faculty we are hiring who are wondering whether they should stay?
Brown: An example is the CU dental school — we have such a wonderful advantage — we have the best dental school in North America. Part of the reason is we have an outstanding faculty, but it is also because of our desirable location. The faculty are here because CU is an outstanding academic institution. New hires are carrying a message to us that we haven’t done as good a job as we could have in making that connection [between outstanding faculty and an outstanding place].
Barth asks about finding more money for faculty salaries.
Brown: That is a critical question. Your point is exactly right, particularly in the health sciences. In order to have an outstanding faculty you have to pay something that is at least comparable to other institutions. There are great data available about higher ed institutions and you can literally look at what is the teaching load and average salary for different institutions. You can have 5,000 examples. Most institutions make their information available. CU comes out on the low side, but we’re not on the bottom. A recent newspaper article reported that CU is second in terms of funding in the Big 12, but we’re not competing with Big 12 schools. We don’t consider ourselves comparable to Nebraska, nor do we aspire to be. We compare ourselves to [the major AAU private and public institutions]. When I went through the comparables the other day, I found on compensation we are toward the lower end, on work load in the middle, and on research funding, we are off the scale — double or triple the average institution. In terms of academic support we’re about in the middle, but in terms of state support we’re at bottom. Our out-of-state tuition is off the chart; our in-state tuition is low. We’re stretched about as far as you can go.
Kleier: You mentioned faculty and what faculty are doing in terms of research and workload. What do you see in terms of our role (as Teaching Scholars) in supporting you?
Brown: Thank you for asking. I think we have a challenge in the next few years that is unlike any I’ve heard before. The first thing when the state was established was they set up institutions of higher education because it was a necessity for the state. There was keen awareness of how integral higher education was to the success of the state. We need to re-establish that. We need to think about ways we can incentivize faculty and recognize them for outstanding teaching and service in the community. Right now we don’t do all we can to recognize faculty work in the community. One of the things I’d like to do — and I’d hope faculty can give us guidance — is to develop an outreach program that helps people understand at every level why what we’re doing is so valuable. I think it’s fundamental. I think that means outreach by some of our faculty [in K–12 schools], encouraging people who might not go to college, working with employers, etc. That is a way to have faculty leadership to help us change how people think of us. I never thought we’d be facing that challenge, but we are.