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The Joint Budget Committee hears from President Davidson

President’s remarks lay out case to increase MSU Denver’s state funding.

By Nathan Solheim

January 8, 2018

President Janine Davidson delivers her remarks to the Joint Budget Committee on Jan. 4.
President Janine Davidson delivers her remarks to the Joint Budget Committee on Jan. 4.

President Janine Davidson opened her remarks to the Colorado Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC) on Jan. 4 with a story about, of all things, empty beer bottles.

In the 1970s, MSU Denver’s president and state legislators were touring the University when they found a biology student cleaning and sterilizing a few of the empties. The student told the group the Department of Biology did not have enough money for specimen bottles so students had been saving beer bottles for classroom use.

“Not surprisingly, the following year MSU Denver’s budget for lab supplies was increased,” Davidson told the committee.

The story kicked off Davidson’s first JBC appearance, which she used to make a strong case for fixing the University’s state funding imbalance.

Davidson said the state’s per-student spending formula has disadvantaged MSU Denver for many years, and proposed spending for next year will not be enough to do the enhancements laid out in the state’s master plan for higher education.

“I’ve been on the job for five months, and have spent time trying to figure out the funding formula, and I’ve got to be honest – I don’t understand how (it) is accomplishing what the state of Colorado wants to accomplish,” she said.

The median funding for state universities in Colorado is $6,070 per student. In comparison, MSU Denver receives $3,481. Multiply that by the number of students attending MSU Denver this year, and the University comes in $41 million below the median, Davidson said. MSU Denver, Davidson continued, is the lowest funded four-year institution in the state, which is itself among the bottom in the nation for higher education funding.

“You may say we are the ‘most efficient,’” Davidson said. “But that term masks the ugly reality that there are things that we know we can and should be doing for our students that we are not doing because we can’t pay for it.”

Committee members also heard Davidson say that in order to meet goals for higher education, MSU Denver needs the additional funding. The proposed allocation for MSU Denver this year, coupled with a three-percent tuition cap, leaves the University unable to fund improvements that would improve retention and graduation, prepare students for STEM careers or provide skilled employees for the rest of Colorado’s economy.

The University’s mission aligns perfectly with the state’s higher education goals, Davidson said. Local employers have told her that MSU Denver graduates possess five key traits that make them stand out. These “Roadrunner differences” are:

  • Diverse
  • Tenacious
  • Primed
  • Purposeful
  • Entrepreneurial

MSU Denver graduates, compared to other state graduates, earn the third highest median salaries within the first year of graduation while paying the most affordable tuition in the state.

In closing, Davidson highlighted MSU Denver’s innovative co-op program with Lockheed Martin, in which students take a slightly lighter course load over two semesters but work 20-25 hours per week in areas including 3D printing, electronics and spacecraft testing at one of Colorado’s largest aerospace employers. Because of the program, Davidson said, most co-op students get hired by Lockheed Martin. It is one of many examples of the University building a local workforce pipeline of highly trained employees.

“We are eager and primed to partner with the Legislature to invest together in Colorado’s future,” Davidson said. “We just ask that you look further at what is an equitable amount of investment for all of Colorado’s students.”

To hear Davidson’s remarks, please visit the JBC website

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