President Bruce Benson's newsletter

President's Newsletter

September 2016

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Our state and our university both turn 140 this year. The framers of Colorado's constitution were so convinced of the importance of education that they embedded in the document a provision for a state university, which created the University of Colorado.

We have been integral to the success of the state since 1876, strongly embracing our role as a public university serving Colorado and its citizens. The state and its people, and more recently people from across the country and around the world, have supported the university in meeting our mission.

The most recent example of that comes as we announce another record year for private support at CU. Our alumni, donors, corporations and charitable foundations contributed $384.5 million to people, programs and places on our four campuses. It's the seventh consecutive year that CU has set a record for annual fundraising. Thank you to all of you who believe in our university and its ability to transform lives.

The occasion of our birthday not only lets us consider our place in Colorado history, but also provides an opportunity to look to a future where funding is by no means certain. As Bud Davis notes in his history of CU, "Glory Colorado," adequate state funding often did not match the ambition among Colorado's pioneers for education and a state university. And today, Colorado has the dubious distinction of ranking 48th among 50 states in public funding for higher education.

It's not that state legislators don't support or appreciate us – they certainly do. But a series of competing provisions added to the state constitution in recent decades squeezes funding for higher education, one of the few discretionary parts of the state budget. If nothing changes in the coming years, we project further deep cuts.

That's why private support is critical. Together with our continual push to find internal efficiencies, cut costs and institute better business practices, fundraising will help us add value to the CU experience. And as we look to the near- and long-term future of the university, one particular aspect of private support will become increasingly important – our endowment.

CU's endowment – a pooled collection of thousands of individual funds that provide revenue to meet donors' wishes – is more than $1 billion, up from $600 million eight years ago. It's important to note that philanthropy is directed by the donor, and the university cannot redirect that money elsewhere. And while passing $1 billion is a milestone for CU, the reality is we need to grow our endowment substantially.

Many of our peers among the nation's top public universities – the University of Michigan, the University of California, the University of North Carolina, UCLA and others – have endowments worth several billion. Endowments cannot replace state funding, but they add considerable value to our students, faculty, programs and research.

Perhaps most important, our endowment is a powerful draw to attract top talent – students, faculty and researchers – which has an important ripple effect across the university. Our focus in the near and long-term future will be growing our endowment to levels comparable with our peers. We will make a concerted effort to ensure that we can sustain academic and research excellence despite the vagaries of the state budget.

You will hear more about this, but for now, thank you again to all of you who contributed to CU this year. You help us achieve our goal to be one of the world's top public universities. We appreciate your confidence in the university and will do all we can to sustain CU for our next 140 years and beyond.

For feedback, contact


Bruce Benson


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