Published: Sept. 16, 2015 By

Dean Steven R. Leigh

Dean Steven R. Leigh

As the semester is now underway, I’m excited to announce a new initiative that I’m certain will help A&S students achieve their educational goals while minimizing college debt. The College of Arts and Sciences proudly announces the new Ketchum Scholars Fund, a source of scholarship support for students in our social-sciences fields. We chose to take advantage of the Ketchum Building remodel, which is well underway, in part because many of our social-sciences departments occupy the building and because it gives donors an exciting opportunity to be a part of something new.

The fund is supported through naming opportunities in Ketchum. Our goal in this “mini-campaign” is to raise at least $1 million to support the fund, and through this support, help our students meet the costs of higher education, thus reducing their reliance on student loans, family savings and jobs outside of the classroom.

The way the fund works is straightforward and is inspired by our complete remodel of this iconic campus landmark. In addition to entirely rebuilding the interior, we changed floor plans to increase functionality. The functionality of the building will far exceed what was possible at its completion in 1938.

Donors have the opportunity to name classrooms and offices (see more here) throughout the building. Donated monies will placed in an endowment fund dedicated to scholarships for students in the social sciences, perpetually supporting students and their families in bearing the costs of higher education.

Funding opportunities begin at $10,000 to name a faculty office, and the highest opportunity is $200,000 to name a classroom. Ketchum classrooms will be the best at CU-Boulder, with cutting-edge technologies capable of supporting active pedagogy and educational innovation. The building will also be vastly more energy efficient than the 1938 version, helping us further reduce costs of education.

Our students in the social sciences study human society, how people behave and, most critically, how people influence the world around them. These are fundamentally important endeavors, and the quality of CU-Boulder’s social sciences departments and our affiliated institutes position us to make a major difference in the world. We all know that the world faces complex challenges, with human behavior and society playing a major role. Whether the question is pursuing international peace, providing for Earth’s poorest billion people, prompting humanity to increase its collective wisdom, or understanding how and why the “biological” becomes “social,” the social sciences will be an integral part of any effective answer. Providing top-quality research and learning spaces will greatly facilitate these endeavors. Moreover, naming opportunities provide a clear and enduring signal to our students, faculty and staff of the dedication of our donors to the university and its students, and to the missions we undertake.

Student-loan debt remains a major problem for our students and, indeed, our entire nation. I last shared concerns on student-loan debt in this venue back in April of 2014, when student loan debt was estimated at $1.08 trillion. Just a few weeks ago, the New York Federal Reserve reported that student-loan debt has now reached $1.19 trillion, greatly surpassing credit-card debt ($703 billion). Student-loan debt represents 10 percent of the total debt in our country, and is now the second-largest source of debt behind mortgage debt (69 percent). Moreover, about 11.5 percent of student loans are regarded as “seriously delinquent.” Such loans are at least 90 days late; by comparison, about 2.5 percent of mortgage loans are seriously delinquent. Moreover, because about half of those with student-loan debt are still in school, some authorities warn that 23 percent of student loans may be a more realistic estimate of delinquency.

Student-loan debt has, at this point, become a question of future international competitiveness and economic, if not national, security. It is imperative that our nation tackle this problem by finding opportunities to make higher education more accessible and affordable

We are taking bold steps to help our students while giving our donors the chance to advance our national interests. Moreover, by enabling CU-Boulder to recruit top-quality students with scholarship offers, we enhance our quality as an institution. This, in turn, increases the value of a CU-Boulder degree for alumni, as well as for present and future students. It is clear that our donors can have impacts that extend far beyond the bricks, mortar, state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment now physically present in the Ketchum Building. Support for the Ketchum Scholars Fund will make a difference for future generations of students and their families.

Steven R. Leigh is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.