College leaders focus on cost, technology, first-gen. students in Colorado

Author: Gabrielle Bryant - April 5, 2018 - Updated: April 12, 2018


DENVER — Colorado business leaders, higher-education officials and policymakers converged at the History Colorado Center Wednesday afternoon to discuss how the needs of college students could be better met through funding and technology.

Debbie Hughes, vice president of the Business Higher Ed Forum, moderated a panel made up of University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp, Colorado State University president Tony Frank, Chancellor Phil DiStefano of University of Colorado Boulder and the newly appointed president of Metropolitan State University of Denver, Janine Davidson.

The State of Higher Education Forum was put on by the Colorado Business Roundtable.

As expected by a panel of educators, many stats were thrown out about the state of higher education and what each of these universities are doing to meet the needs of its student population.

Themes that emerged were first-generation students, how technology is and will be used to both recruit and retain students and how Colorado needs to catch up with the rest of the nation in education funding.

Frank pointed to general affordability for students, as well as lack of preparedness for college in first-generation college students.

Chopp said DU is equipping students with hybrid skills, because traditional job categories are blending.

Frank jokingly recounted the time he jumped on what he thought was a federal student-aid website, discovering he had mistakenly typed in the wrong web address once he was asked for his credit card information.

Met with laughter, Frank used this anecdote to illustrate how if a man with his knowledge of the system couldn’t get it right, he could only imagine what first-generation or Spanish-speaking students could face when applying for college.

He said colleges needed to do a better job of acknowledging a lot of students are also faced with issues of “food and housing security.”

Moreover, 70 percent of Colorado’s high school students are going out of state for college, panel acknowledged.

“Why is that?” DiStefano asked.

The answer is a lack of merit-based scholarships, he said.CU responded by increasing scholarship funding through its Esteemed Scholars Program, which is based on GPA. Students are automatically eligible for scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 a year are available.

The panelists noted how technology is shaping the future of every sector of education. They said it was essential to attracting students, keeping them and preparing them for global innovation in the workplace.

“Technology is creating this tremendous opportunity to completely revolutionize the way we look at learning,” CSU’s Frank said.

Ultimately, the educators were hopeful to make more solid connections between the public and private sector to ensure Coloradans continue to attend (and afford) college.

“Colorado is winning the race to the bottom in higher education funding,” which isn’t something we should be proud of, Davidson said.

Gabrielle Bryant

Gabrielle Bryant

Gabrielle Bryant is a freelance journalist, host and Emmy Award-winning politics producer. You might recognize her TV work from "Colorado Inside Out" Friday nights on CPT12.