|Colorado Governer Jared Polis and UNC President Andy Feinstein|
Last week, I had an opportunity to present in front of a state committee that is authorized to create bills during the next legislative session for supporting attainment goals in higher education. The week culminated in a meeting with Colorado Governor Jared Polis during which I shared with him how we are advancing higher education at UNC.
In front of the Making Higher Education Attainable Interim Study Committee, Vice President of Student Affairs Katrina Rodriguez and I co-presented at the Capitol last Tuesday. The first half of the presentation focused on the types of students UNC serves, examples of recognized programs of excellence here, and our prioritized initiatives through the Strategic Enrollment and Student Success plan, ongoing budget work, and strategic planning effort (see slides here).
I encouraged the six-member policymaking group to support new funding that will boost retention and graduation not only at UNC but also throughout the state. An investment from the state would help us ensure that we have the resources to do a better job in improving our persistence rates. In a discussion about the teacher shortage, our Center for Rural Education was mentioned, and I made a point to emphasize what I consider to be unusual discrepancies in state funding. Fields like medicine and veterinarian sciences receive dedicated revenue set aside in the state budget whereas teacher education, a priority with historically less financial support from the private sector, receives funding based on an arbitrary metric that pales in comparison. This in spite of the fact that the primacy of preparing educators is part of our university charter and is unique among our peers in the state. The existing funding structure presents an ongoing challenge for us and raised eyebrows among the committee with agreement that this topic is something to consider revisiting, especially given the teacher shortages we are facing in the state and nation.
A recording of the presentation is available in the archived section here (go to 3:15 mark of Sept. 17 recording).
On Thursday, I returned to the Capitol to meet with Governor Polis. As with the committee two days before, it was an opportunity to showcase student success. Gov. Polis was particularly interested in our collaboration with the Aims2UNC program, which the committee praised Tuesday and the Colorado Department of Higher Education has expressed interest in modeling. I was able to speak about my experience in California reducing time to degree for students and helping students save money in the process. I hope it is something that can be replicated here. It is clear from my meeting with him that the governor is interested in the entire continuum of education.
Last week’s discussions at the state level served as optimistic reminders that we are moving in a positive direction. There is much work to do, but I am enthusiastic about what lies ahead.
Rowing, Not Drifting,