January 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

As we begin a new decade, it’s interesting to look at the one just passed. In 2010, Uber and Airbnb were only a couple of years into disrupting transportation and lodging. The iPhone was 2 years old but had already changed how we use technology. Instagram launched. Tesla’s battery-powered Model S was two years away.

But the rapid pace of change in the past decade didn’t touch Colorado higher education funding. We started the decade ranked 48th nationally in state funding and ended it in the same place. Colorado begins 2020 with a robust economy. Yet how long can its economic health last given its position relative to higher education funding?

We start this decade in an atmosphere of promise and peril.

The promise is that many of the innovations that drove the technological advances of the previous decade came out of university research laboratories. Colorado’s colleges and universities in general and CU in particular are uniquely positioned to help capitalize on Colorado’s place as an innovation hub. The CU system ranks among the top 10 public research systems in the nation in research expenditures. We are a national leader in aerospace, health care, environmental research, energy and other ecosystems vital to Colorado’s prosperity. Our researchers tackle challenges pivotal to the future of our state, nation and planet.

Economic vitality will depend on new technologies and ventures emerging from research to replace jobs supplanted by automation. Increasingly, education and research will drive the success of individuals, enterprises and states.

The peril is that without a recommitment, Colorado’s economic success is tenuous. As the Colorado General Assembly kicked off the 2020 legislative session last week, the state must renew its commitment to higher education. Colorado’s strong economy allowed the General Assembly to provide increases in state funding in recent years (for which we are grateful) for CU and other institutions. Yet the pinch continues as we work to enhance student support services and financial aid, and as we see increased costs for things such as health care, utilities, technology and more.

We are committed to working with legislators and the governor to further our common goal – a prosperous Colorado. We appreciate their recognition of the value and contributions of universities. They want to help, since an educated populace serves us all.

Yet Colorado has relied on two types of imports to mitigate low state funding for higher education: nonresident students and people who earned college degrees elsewhere.

Nationwide, college enrollment has declined for the past decade and Colorado high school graduates will drop after 2025. Other states are fighting to keep their students home. Nearly 50 out-of-state universities have operations in Colorado to recruit our students.

Colorado’s reliance on out-of-state college graduates to meet workforce needs is also risky, particularly given ever-increasing real estate prices on the Front Range.

Lagging higher education funding is a gamble the state cannot afford too much longer. It could result in the state lacking the talent and discovery to drive continued economic prosperity, create new companies and foster high-paying jobs.

Inadequate state funding also limits support for tomorrow’s students, who are increasingly underrepresented minorities and the first in their family to attend college. We also risk having our best academic talent poached by better-funded research universities in other states.

We recognize we have to do our part. We will continue to seek efficiencies in our operations and keep costs in check. We are halfway through a strategic planning process that will allow us to lean into the future, embracing technology to support the success of an increasingly diverse student body. It will help us expand online education and lifelong learning, including new forms of credentials. It will foster the research that generates breakthrough discoveries that may include the next iPhone or Tesla.

An investment in higher education pays huge dividends, whether for an individual, a state or society. Let’s hope that in 2030, Coloradans will look back on a decade that demonstrated one of the wisest investments we ever made.

Mark Kennedy, CU President
Mark Kennedy President

For feedback, contact officeofthepresident@cu.edu

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Newsletter Archive



  • November, The cost of college
  • October, Engineering success with collaboration across Colorado
  • September, A shot of adrenaline for CU’s medical powerhouse
  • August, Back to the Future
  • June, Bright CU ideas
  • May, Teaching students how -- not what -- to think
  • April, Teaching innovation
  • March, Reflecting on a decade
  • February, A festival of ideas
  • January, CU's greatest asset


  • November, Fostering community
  • October, University of Innovation
  • September, Open exchange of ideas
  • August, Pathways to address the teacher shortage
  • June, Building on a proud history
  • May, My favorite time of year
  • April, Mapping MOOCs
  • March, Innovation sparks creation
  • February, Advocating for CU
  • January, State funding quest



  • December, Enriching diversity
  • November, Veterans: Impact and opportunity
  • 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
  • November, From python hearts to Tebow's cleats
  • October, We want you
  • 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