Venkat Reddy opened his first all-campus forum as interim chancellor this week by outlining his near-term goals, then shifted to a discussion of what he called a stable campus budget.
Reddy became interim chancellor Feb. 16 after the retirement of Pam Shockley-Zalabak. He joined UCCS in 1991 as a faculty member and most recently was dean of the College of Business and associate vice chancellor for online programs in the Division of Academic Affairs
“The goal is not to lose any momentum that Pam has built up for us, not lose the positive trajectory she put us on,” he said at the March 22 forum. “So we are going to continue to be innovative, entrepreneurial, figuring out solutions for the problems we create and those that somebody else creates for us. None of that is going to slow down because we still have strong leadership across the campus at all levels.”
Reddy then offered a thank you to faculty and staff members.
“I’ve been getting a lot of support across the board from the campus, and people have really stepped up,” Reddy said.
Reddy joked that he will advertise future forum topics as “budget” to draw a similarly big crowd.
UCCS, at nearly 12,000 students, is very different from the campus he said he joined.
“We’re no longer that small organization we were before,” he said. “That means we need different models, new models to try different things, new structures, new capacity modeling, new financial models that can keep us healthy and growing.”
Reddy described UCCS’ financial situation as stable and urged responsible growth for the university. Two of the campus’s key metrics – student enrollment and retention – “are really critical for who we are today.”
“I really want to emphasize this: Each and every one of us can be responsible for retention,” he said. More students retained means more revenue for the campus, he said.
“But I want to you think beyond that because when we retain a student, we’re also helping them graduate. We’re helping to take care of them.”
UCCS is doing “really really well” with 6.2 percent fall enrollment growth, particularly compared to other campuses suffering declines. One problem, he noted, is that fall-to-spring student retention continues to lag.
“We’ve got to figure out how we’re losing these students and what can we do to keep them in school,” he said.
Enrollment growth has come in part due to new athletics teams, new academic programs, including exercise science and inclusive elementary education and a four-year chancellor’s scholarship, he said.
UCCS has developed three budget scenarios for the 2017-18 year, said Susan Szpyrka, senior vice chancellor, Administration and Finance, during her budget presentation at the forum.
Each scenario takes into account what type of state budget – and therefore what type of funding for higher education – lawmakers will approve by the time the 2017 General Assembly ends in May. Tuition rates and maintenance spending, among other things, will depend on the final budget bill, she said. An employee compensation pool of 2.5 percent is part of the preliminary 2017-18 budget. The size of an employee uncompensated merit pool will depend on the state budget, she said.
Meanwhile, staff members involved in student recruitment and enrollment are watching fall enrollment trends “very closely,” she said.