CU president visits UCCS, talks collaboration, budget and student retention

Caitlyn Dieckmann 

cdieckma@uccs.edu 

     Interim CU President Todd Saliman visited campus on Sept. 28 to discuss CU’s plans and goals for the year, including collaboration between campuses, retention rates and the ongoing search for the next CU president.  

     Saliman first discussed collaboration goals, saying, “My first priority when I started out [as CU president] was wanting to make sure that we’re just running the university well, and our campuses well and wanting to try to transition to a more collaborative approach to the campuses between the system and the campuses.”  

Todd Saliman, photo courtesy of president.cu.edu

     Two big projects are currently in the works in the areas of information technology and online services through the CU system, according to Saliman. “We really have been working diligently with the campuses to take both projects with a more collaborative effort.” 

     He said, “There’s still lots of work to do, but we are really trying to remove friction from our collaborative perspective. Listening to our campuses’ need to get from IT and from online and you know, what the students, faculty and staff need from these programs and to work collaboratively with the campuses to defend it.”  

     Another project that Saliman is working on is geared towards changing perspectives in Colorado on the value of a four-year degree through the CU. 

     He said, “I think there’s a perception, or there’s a growing perception in Colorado and in the country, that maybe a four-year degree isn’t worth it. And they’re wrong. So, I’m working with campuses and with other institutions in the state to figure out how we can better communicate the value of a four-year degree, and to try to change that perception in Colorado.” 

     Affordability of a four-year degree is also a big part of this perception, according to Saliman.  

     He talked about his goal in addressing this issue, saying, “One of my priorities is to try to figure out how we communicate to people of Colorado, about the affordability of the CU, so that they can hopefully appreciate the value of it and see that it’s an option for them.” 

     Addressing the budget within the CU system and Colorado state funding, Saliman explained that education is a mandatory expense in Colorado, but the state is still one of the lowest in funding as compared to the rest of the U.S.   

     “There are lots of pressure points on the state budget. The biggest portion of the state budget, where there is no mandatory spending requirement is higher [education]. And so, when the state budget comes under pressure, higher ed is often the place where, where they end up going because that’s where the money is, and where there is flexibility,” Saliman said.  

     Saliman also touched on the current presidential search as well as his position. There was language in his contract preventing him from applying, but that section of the contract was removed at a recent meeting. “I need to think about that, but their search process is just getting started,” he said. 

     “There is currently an ongoing search for a search firm, and so I think by the beginning of November, they’ll probably have their search committee chosen and the search firm. And so there, they’ll be well on their way, you know, before too long in the search process,” Saliman explained.  

     The discussion finished by covering retention rates in the CU system, which Saliman believes can be raised.  

     He said, “When we get a student enrolled, it’s our job to retain them and to get them across the finish line, and work with them to make that happen. Our retention rates need to improve.”  

     Saliman also explained that there is a gap between retention in the total student population and underrepresented students and the goal to close that gap. Additionally, he explained that even though the CU has some of the highest retention rates in the state, this is still a primary concern.  

     He explained that if students enter college and then drop out after a year, they pay that cost but don’t have a degree to show for it, so it should be a priority to keep those students enrolled until they graduate.