Saturday, February 23, 2008

The University of Colorado's President Bruce Benson

Picture credit and article: the new President of the University of Colorado Bruce Benson once "chaired the blue ribbon panel that has proposed Colorado's higher education voucher plan."

"It’s good to remind the inmates that they don’t run the asylum. The appointment of Bruce Benson as president of the University of Colorado serves as the latest reminder. More specifically, it says this: The University of Colorado, even the Boulder campus, doesn’t belong to self-important ideologues in Boulder. It belongs to the citizens of Colorado..." the Colorado Springs Gazette

UPDATE: CU press release (2-20-08): University of Colorado Names Bruce Benson Its 22nd President

A Spring 2003 article in National Crosstalk titled "Colorado's 'Grand Experiment'" discusses President Benson's role as chairman of a panel that once proposed a voucher plan for higher education:

The first of its kind in the country, the plan would turn the traditional form of state appropriations on its head, routing state subsidies for education directly to students, instead of institutions. As envisioned by the panel that hatched the idea, the higher education commission that refined it, and the legislators who are seeking to enact it into law, the new funding mechanism would have a dual effect: enticing more low-income students to attend college while allowing four-year universities the tuition increases they say they badly need.

The plan is designed to address the peculiarities of Colorado's fiscal landscape-namely by liberating schools from constitutional limits on revenue increases. Since 1993, state government has operated under the Colorado Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR, amendment, which strictly limits increases in state revenue, including tuition. By placing a large chunk of institutions' traditional revenue in students' hands, the plan would reduce schools' revenue below the ceiling required for exemption from TABOR-a key reason the state's two research universities favor the proposal. But since distributing dollars to students could help keep higher education funding on the public's agenda, the notion is drawing interest from policymakers in other states as well.

"This is the boldest plan I've seen," said David Longanecker, executive director of the Boulder-based Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. "This could be the way to secure the long-term future for higher education in Colorado. I think a lot of states will pay attention."

...Colorado is one of the nation's wealthiest states, and it ranks number one in terms of the percentage of citizens with a college degree, according to U.S. census figures. On the other hand, the state falls below the median in terms of college attendance by its own citizens (according to the Measuring Up 2002 report published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which also publishes National CrossTalk) and ties for third in the percentage of 16-to-19-year-olds who are high school dropouts, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report.

While the state's population mushroomed by more than 30 percent in the 1990s, college enrollment grew by just under ten percent, the panel said in its report. And, in terms of probability of low-income families attending college, Colorado placed dead last in 1999 and 41st in 2000, according to higher education policy analyst Tom Mortenson.

...In its final report, released in January, the panel eschewed the term "voucher" altogether, instead talking about "student educational savings accounts." As the legislation was drafted by Representative Keith King (R-Colorado Springs), who had sat on the blue ribbon panel, the name morphed to "college opportunity grants" and, finally, "college opportunity savings accounts." [Full text]

I have never researched educational funding and will try to find out what happened with this proposal.

I really enjoyed the perspective of the sharply-worded article published by the Colorado Springs Gazette (2-22-08) about the controversy over Mr. Benson's appointment as President of CU. I think that some professors and students at CU were very ignorant, arrogant, narrow-minded, prejudiced, and disrespectful during the debate about hiring Mr. Benson to head the university:

It’s good to remind the inmates that they don’t run the asylum. The appointment of Bruce Benson as president of the University of Colorado serves as the latest reminder. More specifically, it says this: The University of Colorado, even the Boulder campus, doesn’t belong to self-important ideologues in Boulder. It belongs to the citizens of Colorado, and the vast majority of them don’t live anywhere near Boulder.

We predict Benson will quickly emerge as one of the nation’s premier college presidents, setting new standards others will strive to achieve. Few college presidents come with his extraordinary qualifications. His dedication to higher education has already been proved. College presidents today must run their institutions the way a successful captain of industry runs a business. They must compete for money, students and prestige, all the while adapting quickly to what a changing society needs from institutions of higher learning. Benson’s appointment was controversial, mostly in Boulder, where liberal Democrats took issue with his conservative Republican politics. Fair enough. Those who didn’t overtly oppose him on political grounds, however, made issue of Benson’s education. Perennial students often park themselves for life in Boulder. As such, advanced degrees are common — even at the homeless shelter. Benson doesn’t have one, meaning some Boulder janitors and waitresses have superior academic pedigrees.

The silliness about Benson’s education was best summarized when a CU graduate student told The Gazette she would be a better choice.

“I have as many qualifications to run our university as Mr. Benson, and shortly will have more . . . and I am not qualified to run this university,” said graduate student Jennifer Johnson.

Wipe your nose, Jennifer Smarty Pants, and eat some humble pie. You will soon have more qualifications than Benson, because you have the time and money to pursue an advanced degree? And that degree will impart you with more wisdom and experience than what Benson has amassed in 69 years? To follow Jennifer’s logic, one must believe that a graduate degree from CU outweighs:

* Owning and operating an oil and gas exploration company that’s also involved in banking, cable TV, real estate, investment banking, pizza franchises, restaurants, manufacturing, trucking and geothermal power.
* Amassing a personal fortune through hard work, discipline and creativity.
* Service with 15 other companies, including those involved in banking, investing, research and geological exploration.
* Extensive community service on multiple boards and committees devoted to promoting excellence in education.
* Chairmanship of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
*A successful, long-term marriage.
* Parenting three children; grandparenting eight. * Service and experience so impressive the administration of CU responded with the prestigious University Medal and an honorary doctorate.
* The successful leadership in getting Referendum C approved by voters, which provided billions for higher education.
* A life of success and philanthropy, in which money has been given so students such as Jennifer have exceptional instructors and learning facilities. That’s the short list of Benson’s notable service and achievements. But soon, Jennifer will have a master’s degree. In some shallow minds, that will qualify her more to lead a major university than anything Benson has done. Harvard, look out, because CU is selling degrees we can only describe as priceless. And Mr. Benson, as president you should hire Jennifer to do PR. She can shill the value of an advanced diploma from CU — the most crowning achievement life has to offer.

Do I detect a little sarcasm?

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