Re-elected regent outlines CU system plan to address campus needs

CU Regent Ken Montera, re-elected as the fifth congressional district representative during the 2022 general election, wants to work with the rest of the Board of Regents to make college more affordable and representative of Colorado.

Montera was initially appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Jared Polis in 2021 after Regent Chance Hill resigned. Montera will now serve a full six-year term and tells The Scribe he is working toward the board’s strategic plan by addressing three key areas.

Affordability and student success

The first part of the board’s plan focuses on how to make college more affordable for students in the CU system. One of the biggest challenges the Board faces is that the state of Colorado only funds about 5% of the cost of CU, a rate which falls in the bottom five states of those that provide state college funding.

According to Montera, most of the funding for Colorado state colleges comes from student tuition and donations.

“That’s the biggest challenge that we have is one, managing how much money we get from the state, and then how do we manage a $5.2 billion budget most effectively so that we can try to keep the cost of education at CU reasonable. And it’s a challenge, especially when everything is going up around you in cost,” Montera said.

The board is also concerned with student success and graduation rates. “Are we offering them the ability to take the courses in the succession they need to be able to graduate at the rate they want to graduate out. Because every additional semester costs a student more money,” Montera said.

Diversity, inclusion and equity

The board’s strategy for diversity, inclusion and equity focuses on outreach to potential students and making sure that the state’s demographics are represented in the CU system.

“The notion is, we want to represent the state of Colorado and look like the state of Colorado in our campuses,” Montera said.

Montera has gotten involved in outreach programs with other regents and CU President Todd Saliman to talk with communities across the state about how they can attend and pay for state colleges.

“I want to reach more young people, not less,” Montera said. “I was the first of my family to go to college, and even back then, it was all about much as it cost for you to go to CU. And if I wouldn’t have gotten a partial scholarship, I wouldn’t ever been able to do that. So, every time I talk to a student that’s kind of in that same boat, it’s like, how do I ensure that we can reach that kid or that person that really wants to go to CU but doesn’t have the funds to get there.”

Discovery and impact

The final part of the regents’ plan looks at how to financially support the research facilities in the CU system.

“A lot of people don’t realize it, but our aerospace engineering program up in Boulder is the third ranked aerospace engineering program in the entire U.S., and NASA, as a matter of fact, provides more research funds to that program than any program in the U.S.,” Montera said.

“It’s really [about] making sure that we continue to support the research that’s happening on our campuses, and it’s getting funded in a way that we can continue to accelerate,” Montera said.

To support these three areas of their plan, the board looks at the CU system’s fiscal strength to manage funds appropriately and effectively, especially in difficult financial times.

“Right now, there’s probably not a portfolio in the country that’s positive in the past six months to a year. … It’s kind of, ‘how do you save for a rainy day?’ like we’re in right now,” Montera said.

Photo by Jerilee Bennett of The Gazette.