Gov. Bill Ritter today kicked off a strategic planning initiative that will assess the state's higher-education systems and develop a comprehensive roadmap for the future of Colorado's 27 public colleges and universities.
"We're tackling some of the biggest challenges facing Colorado head on – K-12 education, energy, transportation and the worst economy since the Great Depression," Gov. Ritter said. "And now it's time to turn our attention to higher education, because without question, higher-ed is one of the keys to our recovery and our future. It drives economic growth and it opens doors of opportunity for people all across Colorado.
"As we rebuild our economy and position Colorado for strong sustainable growth, we must look beyond just the next year," the Governor said. "We need to look out 10, 20 and 30 years. And the only way we get there is with a vibrant higher-ed system that can meet the needs of a 21st century Colorado. Our greatest resource in this state is our people and our families, and they deserve nothing less than colleges and universities that are accessible, affordable, accountable and of the highest quality."
Speaking to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and many of the state's college presidents, Gov. Ritter introduced Jim Lyons and Dick Monfort as the co-chairs of a steering committee that will lead the strategic planning effort. The committee will develop and recommend a master plan for a higher education system that today serves 220,000 students.
Monfort spent 20 years in the cattle business, is a vice chairman of the Colorado Rockies and sits on the University of Northern Colorado Board of Trustees. Lyons is a co-chair of the Governor's Jobs Cabinet and a prominent attorney in Colorado. They will work closely with Rico Munn, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and Don Elliman, the governor's chief operating officer.
College and business leaders around Colorado praised today's launch and the naming of Monfort and Lyons.
"Colorado's system of higher education needs a coherent and comprehensive plan for the future, said CCHE Chairman James Polsfut. "This planning process will give us a chance to determine what the state wants out of its higher education system and how we can deliver it."
"A strong higher education system is invaluable to the business community," said Kelly Brough, CEO and president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. "In order to continue to recruit new businesses and retain the companies we have, we must be able to say that we have a higher education system that can educate and prepare Coloradans for the jobs of today and the future."
"Dick Monfort and Jim Lyons are outstanding people who I have had the pleasure to work with for many years," said University of Colorado President Bruce D. Benson. "They have a deep commitment to higher education and our state and will do a great job leading the study. It's important that it take a thorough look at all our colleges and universities to ensure we can provide high-quality, accessible and affordable education for all Coloradans. To achieve that, we have to be realistic and deliberate in how we direct our current low funding levels. We also need to look for new revenue streams to sustain our colleges and universities."
"I am very enthused and grateful that Jim Lyons and Dick Monfort have stepped forward in this leadership capacity," said Joe Blake, chancellor of Colorado State University. "I look forward to working with them and being a part of this important process involving the future of public higher education."
"My hope is that this process will lead to some visionary ideas about how we can secure the future of higher education in Colorado," said Jay Helman, president of Western State College in Gunnison. "Colorado has an opportunity to take the lead in a re-visioning of higher education that could benefit the entire country. Nearly every state is faced with substantial funding challenges for higher education. If we can have open and bold discussions about our future, we have an opportunity to strengthen higher education in Colorado and to lead much-needed reform in other states."
"We're very pleased that this initiative is moving forward, and look forward to participating in a process that will benefit all Colorado," said Stephen Jordan, president of Metropolitan State College in Denver.