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Difficult times ahead for the university

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File photo.
Di Mare presented the State of the University Address to approximately 200 faculty members, employees and students who gathered in the Occhiato University Ballroom for the event on Sept. 25. File photo.

In her State of the University Address, Colorado State University-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare discussed the difficulties of paying for college in today’s economy and the university’s plans to meet the challenges of having fewer students. 

Di Mare presented the address to approximately 200 faculty members, employees and students who gathered in the Occhiato University Ballroom for the event on Sept. 25.

Di Mare began the address with the question, “How will America pay for college?” She pointed out that public college tuition has increased by 71 percent between 2000 and 2012, while in the same time frame, the median household income dropped by 9 percent. This makes it difficult for many students to afford college.

CSU-Pueblo’s full-time student enrollment has decreased by 3 percent from last year’s 4,800 students. Di Mare said that the drop in headcount was within the margin of management’s expectations.

Di Mare was quick to point out, however, that because graduate and international student enrollment is up, the university’s revenue is actually up because of the higher tuition rates for these types of students.

The university plans to address the decrease in enrollment by increasing the retention of first-time, full-time freshmen.

CSU-Pueblo has a retention rate of approximately 63 percent, but hopes to increase that number by 2 percentage points each year over the next five years to meet their long-term retention targets.

Di Mare specifically mentioned continued recruitment of Hispanics, who represent more than 31 percent of CSU-Pueblo’s registered students this semester. This is the highest Hispanic representation in the university’s history.

In addition to the difficulty of affording college, there are many other issues that are causing the decrease in enrollment at CSU-Pueblo.

“The population of southern Colorado is declining and there are fewer students graduating from high schools in the state,” Di Mare said.

Di Mare then addressed the issue of student debt default rates. Colorado has the fourth highest default rate in the country at 17 percent, with CSU-Pueblo standing at a 15 percent default rate.

“One of the factors driving high student debt and default rates is that many students who enter college need remediation which prolongs their education by a year or more,” Di Mare said.

In order to help reverse this trend, CSU-Pueblo is using the services of an organization, SALT, which provides financial education to students to help control student debt and overall life finances.

Despite hard budget times, decreased enrollment and high default rates, Di Mare defended college education by quoting projections from the Georgetown center on education and the workforce.

“The nation’s education system will not be able keep up with the rising demand for educated workers. By 2018, the country’s system of higher education will produce 3 million fewer college graduates than the labor market will demand,” she quoted the study as saying.

In order to help CSU-Pueblo students pay for tuition in these tough economic times, CSU-Pueblo is raising $25 million for their “On the Move” campaign, $15 million of which will be dedicated to scholarships for students.

“Despite these efforts, there will be some difficult times ahead for universities like ours. We must all continue to contribute,” Di Mare said.