In her final State of the Campus Address, Chancellor Dorothy Horrell outlined why CU Denver is poised to move from success to significance. After recapping a list of major accomplishments achieved during the past four years, Horrell addressed the top areas that need attention going forward, including improving financial stability and leveraging CU Denver’s identity as Colorado’s only public urban research university.
Speaking to 400-plus students, faculty, and staff seated on the bleachers of the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center gymnasium, Horrell acknowledged that while CU Denver’s history of identity, leadership, and state funding may be complicated, one powerful attribute remains consistent: “A special spirit of strength and resilience that is hardwired into the DNA of this place,” she said. “It comes from deep within each of you.”
New this year, the State of the Campus address closed with a Q&A conducted as a fireside chat. Campus leaders Jamie Sutliff, president of the Student Government Association; Michael Zinser, chair of the Faculty Assembly; and Michelle Larson-Krieg, chair of the Staff Council, asked Horrell a number of candid questions, including what she will miss most about CU Denver.
Her answer came easily: “What I’ll miss most are the people. I really have grown to love this place.”
“The story of a university on the rise”
Under Horrell‘s leadership, CU Denver has made strides toward defining who it is and why it matters—not only to the city of Denver but also to the state of Colorado and beyond. Below is a snapshot of accomplishments that reflect the “hard work, talent and dedication to excellence” that staff and faculty bring each day. Horrell added: “It’s the story of a university on the rise.”
The significance of an urban-serving university
Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, and that number will grow to 68% by 2050, Horrell said, citing projections from the United Nations. The data underscore the vital role the university plays in Denver—a growing city known for innovation, business startups, expansions, and relocations.
“Our faculty have expertise and insight and every day are creating new knowledge and solutions to address some of humanity’s most perplexing challenges,” Horrell said. “Our diverse student body is drawn to the vitality of the city and brings ingenuity and energy as they prepare to be the thought leaders and problem-solvers of the future.”
An urban-serving university is about more than a physical location—it’s integral to the social, cultural, and economic wellbeing of a community and its people, Horrell emphasized. At CU Denver that’s exemplified in four ways:
- Student access and success: A focus on expanding access to undergraduate and graduate higher education within the metropolitan region, and support for programs that maximize student success.
- Engaged research and creative work: Scholarship that is guided by the potential use of its results, and strives to respond to problems or needs of the community.
- Meaningful community partnerships: Connecting governmental entities, the business community, educational institutions, and the social sector to the wealth of the university’s talent, expertise, technology and resources.
- Economic development: Leveraging our assets as a catalyst for growth, improved quality of life, and economic prosperity in the larger community.
Addressing a revenue shortfall
“Our budget reality has been described as being on a razor’s edge,” Horrell said. “The difference between being financially healthy or not can swing one way or the other with a difference of 300 students.”
Eighty percent of CU Denver’s budget comes from tuition paid by students. This year the university saw a 12% increase—equivalent to about $4 million—in state support, contingent on holding tuition rates flat. Mandated costs increased by $5.7 million and student headcount decreased by about 2%, resulting in a revenue shortfall of $2.2 million for fall 2019. If the spring 2020 enrollment remains under budget, the annualized shortfall will be $5 million, Horrell said. She pointed out that this year’s incoming freshman class was the second largest in history, but the number of returning students and new graduate enrollments fell short of projections.
This isn’t the first time CU Denver has faced this situation, Horrell said, but the university is now in a stronger position because of its incentive-based budget model, which focuses on generating funds, reallocating resources, and better containing costs. “We will address the shortfall with a combination of one-time central funds that have been set aside as an enrollment contingency and with permanent, strategic budget reductions in the academic and central support units,” Horrell said.
Longer term, CU Denver is addressing the revenue shortfall by:
- Redeploying resources and hiring a new Assistant Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management, slated to start this November, to lead the charge in developing and implementing a strategic enrollment management plan.
- Targeting recruitment and retention efforts.
- Developing new student pipelines.
Faculty and staff can join the budget conversation in two ways:
- Over the next six weeks, Provost Rod Nairn, Sr. Vice Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet, and Horrell will be meeting with faculty and staff in each school and college to answer questions and seek input.
- A campus conversation focused on the budget is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 1, from 3 – 4 p.m. at the Lawrence Street Center, Second Floor Terrace Room.
A teary-eyed Horrell closed her address with impassioned remarks about her tenure at CU Denver, which received a standing ovation from the attendees. She highlighted the need for CU Denver’s new knowledge, insightful leadership, and talent pipeline that reflects changing demographics, in the vibrant city of Denver.
“This is a place with a strong history and an even more promising future. It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve as your chancellor,” Horrell said. “I’m extraordinarily proud of the work we’ve done together and feel fulfilled knowing that I contributed in some small way to CU Denver’s journey from success to significance.”