President Bruce Benson's newsletter

President's Newsletter

October 2016

Dear Alumni and Friends,

We shared an abundance of good news in a recent three-week span. We shattered records for fiscal year 2015-16 (which ended June 30) in enrollment, donations and research funding, demonstrating the confidence that students, parents, alumni, donors and research funding entities have in CU and our four campuses.

I'm heartened that as I attend university or community events, people go out of their way to tell me how proud they are of CU and how good they feel about the university and its direction. I feel the same way.

While it's important to note that donations and research funding are directed by funders to specific areas and cannot be diverted to our other expenses, the net effect for CU is extremely positive. The funding adds value to our fundamental activities in teaching and learning, as well as research.

Our enrollment gains show students and parents believe in CU's educational offerings. At a time when enrollment is down at many institutions in Colorado and across the nation, we showed increases at each of our four campuses. Some 63,000 students are enrolled in degree programs across the CU system, and another 9,000 are taking courses for credit. Also, our online platform, University of Colorado Connect, has 48,665 enrollments in its 41 degree programs and 52 certificates. Additionally, enrollment in CU's 28 massive open online courses (MOOCs) reached more than 1 million. While those numbers don't count toward enrollment, they demonstrate the power of CU's brand in this fast-emerging market. We intend to add six MOOCs soon in the critical area of cybersecurity. All the enrollment gains show people recognize the value of a quality CU education.

As I reported last month, our donors contributed a record $384.5 million to people, programs and places across our campuses. The amount is significant not only because it's a record, but because the $40 million gift of the Wildlife Experience (now CU South Denver) bolstered the 2014 total in ways that don't happen every year. Record donations this year show our contributors believe in the university and have confidence in what we are doing. It also shows they believe we're good stewards of the funds they entrust in us.

A large chunk of the donations go to support scholarships, but we are also doing our part. CU's internally generated financial aid is also at record levels. We provided some $165 million across our campuses last year, nearly double the $84 million we generated in 2008.

The research success is testament to the hard work and excellence of our faculty and staff, particularly research faculty. Preliminary totals (final figures, which typically increase, are available later in the fall) show they brought in some $924 million from more than 4,300 research awards, mostly from federal entities such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. There were also some significant awards from local entities such as the Colorado Health Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation.

The total is a 5.2 percent increase over last year's $878.3 million. It also eclipses the previous record of $884.1 million in fiscal year 2009-10, a total fueled by one-time federal stimulus dollars.

Research funding has substantial impacts and many ripple effects. It allows our faculty researchers to further important research in everything from Alzheimer's disease to space science to cybersecurity. They not only improve lives with their innovations, but also advance knowledge, a fundamental part of our mission. Their work enhances the educational experience of all our students, many of whom (including many undergraduates) work alongside faculty on their research. Additionally, the $924 million has a large impact on Colorado's economy.

All these gains have a tremendous effect on education and research at CU. However, that doesn't mean we can be complacent about our work to keep costs in check and find efficiencies. We work on those daily and will continue to place a sharp focus on our efforts.

We have great momentum at CU. It shows in big things like the records we set and in myriad other things such as our growing number of CU Advocates (3,300-plus) – our network of alumni and friends. I encourage you to join if you haven't already. The momentum has even spilled over to the CU Buffaloes football team, which was ranked 21st nationally this week, the first appearance in the Top 25 in more than a decade.

We have worked hard on promoting and protecting our reputation in the past eight-plus years that I’ve been here, and that work is paying off. We are also investing in marketing so we can further spread the word about the good work happening at CU. Those investments are paying off.

I feel good about where we are at CU and appreciate the efforts of the thousands of people who have us well-positioned to serve our students and state. I also appreciate all of you who take the time to let me know how you feel about the university.

For feedback, contact


Bruce Benson


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  • October, Tackling mental health
  • September, Marketing a great university
  • August, Coming of Age
  • June, Sunny futures
  • May, Vision to see the future
  • April, Momentum in Denver
  • March, Public higher education's changing face
  • February, Health and medicine: modest beginnings, lofty aspirations 


  • November, Leadership lessons
  • October, Learning how to learn
  • September, CU's largest real estate gift
  • August, What for, not how much
  • July, The bogeyman in the basement
  • May, Private gain or public good?
  • April, Funding outlook: sunny today, stormy tomorrow
  • March, Expertise and passion
  • February, Soaring in southern Colorado
  • January, It all starts with reputation



  • December, The threat from legal pot
  • November, Good news comes in threes
  • October, CU labs: a magnificent microcosm
  • September, Is college worth it?
  • August, A lasting legacy and a record set
  • July, Getting there from here
  • June, Serving those who served
  • May, Indelible impact
  • April, Bruce on Bruce
  • March, Perception and reality
  • February,Leading leaders


  • December, We're most proud of this CU uniform
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  • September, How to succeed at college and save $20,000
  • August, Reputation drives results
  • July, Teaching an old president new tricks
  • June, A message from the president
  • April, CU announces $1.5 billion Creating Futures campaign
  • February