Bruce D. Benson: Higher education gets a boost from Colorado Legislature
June 25, 2017
The Colorado Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law recently that has far-reaching implications for our state.
The Rural Sustainability Act is a great example of a team effort for the good of the state that will have positive ripple effects across Colorado for years to come. It shows what can be accomplished when policymakers go the extra mile to find real solutions for Colorado. It prevents deep funding cuts to hospitals throughout the state, especially rural hospitals by fixing the hospital provider fee. The bill also directs nearly $2 billion to transportation over four years to address critical infrastructure and transportation needs. Especially important for higher education, the bill invests $120 million in desperately needed building repairs at colleges, universities and state buildings throughout the state.
We at the University of Colorado have been working with legislators and representatives from sectors critical to our state's economy over the past two sessions on the bill. We were impressed with the bipartisan approach from legislators that got it over the finish line this year. Any team effort requires leaders, and I tip my hat to Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Sen. Lucia Guzman, Rep. John Becker and Rep. K.C. Becker, who provided substantial leadership for the effort. But virtually every member of the Colorado General Assembly played an important role in this crucial effort.
While CU will receive some of the controlled maintenance funding for long-neglected projects, most of our benefit is indirect. Had the bill not passed, we would have faced more cuts to our already low state funding. Colorado already ranks 48th nationally in funding higher education, so further cuts would have been devastating.
The legislation also fit with our approach of serving Colorado. We collaborated on the bill for the good of the state with legislators and representatives from a variety of sectors: health care, transportation, K-12, and higher education.
CU touches all those sectors and more. We prepare the highly skilled workforce Colorado needs to thrive, develop innovations in our research laboratories that improve lives and contribute significantly to our economy, and provide health care services that make life better for tens of thousands of Coloradans.
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While much of CU's contributions emanate from our four campuses, we are proud to be in communities large and small in every corner of Colorado. CU has nearly 300 outreach programs around the state, ranging from water-quality testing in southwest Colorado to doctors visiting communities across the Eastern Plains to nurse practitioners working in rural communities around the state. CU's Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Nursing, along with our physical therapy programs, partner with six regional Area Health Education Centers around Colorado to provide continuing education to health professionals and pipeline programs to the health professions for students in underserved communities.
CU doctors travel the state, providing care in specialty areas like cancer and in general practice, as well. They are affiliated with some 400 clinics across our state.
We were happy to be part of the team that promoted the Sustainability of Rural Colorado initiative. It's the right thing for our state and again, we applaud the Colorado Legislature for stepping up to the plate. We're also proud of CU's continued role in furthering the economy, health, culture and quality of life in Colorado. We both were founded in 1876 and have grown together ever since.
Bruce D. Benson is president of the University of Colorado.
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