BY FREDA MIKLIN
On March 1, South Metro Denver Chamber (SMDC) took University of Colorado President Todd Saliman, accompanied by his leadership team from all four CU campuses, Regent Ilana Spiegel, and local leaders on morning and afternoon tours of important businesses and schools in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties.
Boosting the connection between CU and the state’s major employers and educators, to enhance the university’s ability to provide the training most needed to fill Colorado jobs of the future, was an important objective of the day, SMDC President Jeff Keener told The Villager.
The lunch hour was spent at the Lone Tree Arts Center, where President Saliman shared key data about CU with 100 invited guests in business, government, and education.
During his 30-year public service career, Saliman, a Colorado native who graduated from Littleton Public Schools and CU, served in the cabinet of two governors, including as Director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting under Governor Ritter, and as a member of the general assembly.
He was introduced by Tony Salazar, CU’s vice president for outreach and engagement, who is also the SMDC chair of the board. Describing their recent outreach activities, Salazar said, “We’ve been everywhere from Durango to Ignacio to Fort Morgan to Pueblo to Lamar, LaJunta…and we’re going to do more this year.”
Saliman noted that CU is 14th in the U.S. for research funding among all public institutions, a great source of pride. Still, he acknowledged, CU does not reflect the diversity of the state in its students, faculty or staff, except at CU Denver, where it “comes close.” He said he wants to do better, noting to the businesses represented in the room, “Almost 50% of the people under 18 in Colorado are not white. If we aren’t educating all of Colorado, you are not going to have people to fill the jobs that you have in the future.” In its efforts to serve the state, CU increased its number of students of color by 82% between 2011 and 2021, to 21,318, while its number of white students increased by only 2%, to 41,112.
Focusing on college degrees earned, Saliman shared that CU awarded over 12,000 baccalaureate degrees in 2021. Its campuses in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Aurora accounted for 42% of all bachelors’ degrees, 43% of all Masters’ degrees, and 71% of all Doctoral degrees awarded statewide that year.
As the state’s third largest employer in all its facilities, CU accounts for 30,000 direct jobs and 90,000 total jobs, constituting a $13.3 billion economic impact. The Anschutz Campus in Aurora, Saliman pointed out, “has a bigger economic impact on the State of Colorado than the entire Colorado ski industry.” CU’s research expenditures alone “have a $2.9 billion economic impact” on our state.
CU, like higher education overall, has not fared well in state funding. Saliman’s data, compiled from state agencies’ reports, showed that CU’s state funding per resident student declined 45% in real dollars between 2001 and 2022.
He explained, “That doesn’t mean we don’t have support from the legislature and from the governor. We do. It’s just that Colorado has limited resources and the state has not been capable of really investing in higher education.” After the state increased funding for higher education by 14% last year, Saliman shared, “We actually lost ground, relative to the rest of the country, slipping from 45th in state funding to 49th. It just wasn’t enough for us to climb up that ladder.”
Saliman presented a pie graph that showed that less than 6% of CU’s total $5.52 billion annual budget comes from State of Colorado direct funding, compared to over 12% from non-resident tuition. The Villager asked Saliman if he had a plan to get more funding from the state, given that major components of the state budget, such as health care and K-12 education, have generous slices of the state revenue pie prescribed in statute. He told us that one of the reasons CU engages in statewide outreach is to share its goals and accomplishments to help garner community support for that mission.
Although it only opened in 2006, CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus, along with its multiple clinics and smaller hospitals around the state, now provides health care services to Coloradans in every one of the state’s 64 counties, along with educating a large part of the state’s health care work force.