After hearing testimony from a University of Denver representative and Metro State constituents on Thursday, the Colorado Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 12-148, the proposal that would allow Metro State to change its name to Metropolitan State University of Denver.
The bill still needs approval by the entire Senate before heading to the House, where if approved, would go to the governor for his signature.
After the vote, Metro State President Stephen Jordan thanked lawmakers, saying, “We so appreciate how you have all assisted in this process. You have helped us work through the process and with the intense conversations with our colleagues at the University of Denver. In the long run, we’ve strengthened the bonds between both institutions.”
The bill was presented to the education committee by Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver. Former State Senator Mike Feeley, an attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schrek, testified on behalf of DU, who acknowledged the “spirited discussions” the institutions have had over the past year. “We have reached a coexistence agreement,” he said, “which defines the use of the name and we appreciate the good faith brought by Metro State and the University of Denver and hope that both parties will live up to the spirit of the agreement.”
The coexistence agreement, which covers branding and copyright issues, was hammered out by Metro State, DU and Sens. Mike Johnston, Rollie Heath and Guzman and Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, the House sponsor of the bill.
“We have two good universities that are key to this state and to all of higher education,” explained Heath. “I had the privilege to work with President Jordan and his staff and I’ve taught at DU as an adjunct professor, and recognize personally how critical these two universities are to the state.”
Metro State’s importance to individual students and the state’s economy was a theme that ran through the testimonies in support of the College’s name change.
Former CEO of the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority Roy Alexander, who earned a degree in accounting from Metro State in 1974, shared his story as a first-generation college student and how Metro State has also provided opportunities for his younger siblings and son, who is currently attending the College. A change of name, he said, will positively impact Colorado’s economy.
“The name change will eliminate the confusion of identity and the divergence of understanding that works to the detriment of the school, the community and the economy of Colorado. Your name should represent who you are and what you do. You have a great opportunity to enhance the institution that this legislature created many years ago,” he told legislators.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing ‘university’ on my diploma,” said Caitlin Gibbons, a Metro State senior majoring in journalism. “I want my employers to know that where I went to school is a four-year institution. This is for me and my career, but it’s also for the 24,000 other students at Metro State.”
Others testifying for Metro State were Board of Trustee members Dawn Bookhardt and Bill Hanzlik, John Brackney, president and CEO of the South Metro Denver Chamber, CEO and Chief Lending Officer of UMB Bank Jon Robinson (’90), Nita Gonzales, president and CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco, Student Trustee Jacob LaBure and Faculty Trustee David Kottenstette.
The Senate could consider the bill as early as Monday.
College-wide Town Hall addresses the state of the College
Prior to Thursday's Senate committee hearing, Metro State President Stephen Jordan hosted a town hall Feb. 22 to remind the campus community it’s not all about the name change right now — Metro State is on the rise all around.
An audience of approximately 80 students, faculty and staff attended the forum in St. Cajetan’s. Jordan outlined the latest progress with College initiatives like the Student Success Building and the effort to change the College’s name to Metropolitan State University of Denver and discussed tuition and the institutional budget.
While the negotiations to get to the new name were often tenuous, Jordan said he is pleased with the outcome. “For me, the highest priority was increasing the value of the degree for students and alumni,” Jordan said.
Metro State has entered into a co-existence agreement with the University of Denver about the use of the proposed name. In exchange, DU has promised not to block the efforts at the capitol to approve the name change.
Jordan said critics of the name change have questioned whether the College is changing the mission of Metro State with changing its name. “We all remain committed to who we’ve been and who we serve and what we take so much satisfaction in doing,” he said. “The College will continue to change the lives of the students and the community.”
Jordan also said tuition will not increase because the College is looking to incorporate the word university in the name and the iconic “M Bird” logo will also stay put if the legislature approves the name change. No state funds or tuition dollars have been or will be used for the name change, he said.
Jordan says Metro State will host a week-long celebration Sept. 4-8 in honor of the opening of the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center and Student Success Building, and hopefully, the success of the name change initiative. A committee is being formed to plan the celebration; contact Associate Vice President of Advancement and Communications Cathy Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join.
Tuition and budget
In spite of shrinking state support over the past three years, Metro State has been able to build two new facilities without a single dollar of state money, Jordan said.
The portrait of this year’s state budget is still being painted, but the College is working with the assumption there will be another $1.6 million reduction in state support this year. Enrollment was also slightly down at Metro State, as it was at other Colorado institutions, which equals about $2 million of lost revenue.
The College has an approved a Financial Accountability Plan with the state for five years. The remaining four years of the five-year plan calls for additional increases of 13 percent in 2012 and 9 percent for each of the following three years. Metro State still receives one of the lowest levels of funding per pupil from the state.
“We are a community that is able to accomplish a heck of a lot with little money,” Jordan said. “It’s in the scrappy spirit and we are capable of determining our own future.”
To watch the Town Hall, click here.
Top of Page