Colorado Governor Jared Polis visited campus virtually for a question-and-answer session hosted by SGA on Oct. 28.
The session was facilitated by Senator of Business Jerome Frimpong and comprised of a brief address from Polis and seven questions that had been submitted to SGA by UCCS students covering topics such as university funding, housing, COVID-19 and leadership strategies.
In his opening address, Polis said that based on current COVID-19 data on campus, the university is experiencing a “very hopeful time” regarding the end of the virus. He revealed nearly 80% of Coloradans have received at least one vaccine, and that percentage is even higher within the CU system.
Polis also said that “historic investments” for higher education were made during recent legislative meetings, including 50 million dollars in scholarship money set aside for students who have taken college classes but not yet received a degree.
His budget, which will be released next week, will “outline important investments of higher education in detail.”
After the opening remarks, senate members asked Polis questions that were selected from university-wide student submissions.
Aidan Clark, speaker pro tempore, asked the first question, regarding an increase of public payment into the University System. Polis discussed how the Tabor Amendment “locks in place,” making it difficult to choose new avenues for tax dollars.
He said that due to Tabor, the decisions about public money are left almost entirely to voters. “Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no,” he said.
Polis did indicate raising future focus on “[increasing] the number of Coloradans who get degrees and certificates, and said that he is “doing everything [he] can to make college more affordable.”
Dylan Matchette, senator of Public Affairs, asked Polis about ways to make housing more affordable in Colorado due to the “meteoric rise” of prices. Polis responded that the current strategy is to create more housing to meet the demand, rather than discourage population growth.
“You don’t want to reduce demand, because it means people want to live here,” he said. “We’ve allocated about five hundred million dollars to work on how we can make housing more affordable [and] where we can develop more housing.”
One student asked about the current strategy for combating COVID-19, and another asked what Polis would change about his communication during the pandemic.
“The main change from where we were almost two years ago is that we now have a highly effective, safe vaccine,” Polis said.
He explained that during the rise of the Delta variant, out of the 31 Coloradans between 12 and 30 years old who died of COVID-19, only one was vaccinated. Out of the 143 Coloradans between 40 and 60 years old who died of COVID-19, only 13 had been vaccinated.
“While by and large, it’s just a matter of personal responsibility and people are paying their own price if they don’t get vaccinated, there is also a societal price,” Polis said. “This would be a very minor health event if everyone was vaccinated. Hopefully, that will be the case soon.”
Of public communication about the virus, he said, “We never have tomorrow’s information today, or next week’s information this week. It’s always a bit of plunge into the unknown in terms of what the future holds.”
Polis recommended the public data dashboard for live pandemic updates.
Frimpong presented the last question of the evening, asking for leadership strategies Polis has found to be effective. Polis urged consistency, optimism and cooperation when setting goals as a leader. He advised that future leaders should think of the bigger picture, but not so broadly as to be overwhelmed.
“If you set too modest a goal, you won’t make a big enough change, and if you set too many goals, you won’t have enough time and effort to pursue all of them,” he said. “So, pick a bold goal or two, and really focus on getting it done.”
Frimpong thanked the governor for his time, and Polis expressed hope that he would be able to visit the campus in-person next semester.
The full event was streamed on YouTube and can be viewed here.