University status is natural progression for Adams State

(09-15-2011)

Opinion by Dr. David Svaldi, President of Adams State College

Dear Students of Adams State:

For more than two years, Adams State has been contemplating changing its name to Adams State University. At the start of this academic year, our Board of Trustees set the debate to rest, voting 8-1 to pursue this name change. As Trustee Charles Scoggin said, "It is appropriate that Adams State's name reflect the depth and breadth of our graduate and undergraduate missions."

This is the rationale behind the school's four name changes to date. In fact, the original legislation authorized the establishment of "Alamosa State College," but by the time the college was opened in 1925, it was named Adams State Normal School, to honor Governor Billy Adams. Adams worked his entire government career to establish colleges in rural Alamosa, Greeley, and Ft. Collins.

In 1929 the name was changed to Adams State Teachers College of Southern Colorado, and then shortened in 1938 to Adams State Teachers College. The current name, Adams State College, was adopted in 1946 to reflect the broader offering of undergraduate liberal arts programs and the expansion of graduate degree programs.

Recognition of the range and quality of our academic programs, along with changes in the marketplace, is driving the effort to now become Adams State University. It is a natural progression. The bottom line is that Adams State is already operating on the level of a university, and our name should reflect that role. We have more graduate students than Colorado Mesa University (formerly Mesa State College), Colorado State University-Pueblo, Western State College, and Metro State College combined - and Metro is making a push for their own university status.

Once the Colorado legislative session begins in January, State Senator Gail Schwartz and House Representative Ed Vigil will introduce a bill proposing the name change. The bill will then be voted on by the entire legislature and, if passed, signed into law by the governor. The change could be approved by March, at the very earliest.

Preserving what matters most

University status will not change Adams State's essential character and values. We will not suddenly (or even gradually) morph into a large, impersonal, expensive institution. At right about this time in 2009, I wrote a letter promising that, whatever its name, Adams State would remain true to its values: small classes, instruction by tenured professors who care about their students (at the undergraduate and graduate level), a full liberal arts program of study, many co-curricular activities, a vibrant outdoor program, a great (and newly remodeled) residential campus, and the best value in four-year higher education in Colorado. To quote the Bard: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

I realize and appreciate that construction delays are inconveniencing faculty and students, but this is a very temporary state. The renovation of McDaniel Hall has resulted in more spaces for smaller classes, as well as new offices for every full-time faculty member. McDaniel Hall will soon boast state-of-the-art classrooms, the best in Colorado. The Music Building's new practice rooms and remodeled classrooms are likewise superior. We will certainly have classrooms and offices on a par with any university. Moreover, ASC's acquisition of the old Evans school in the longer term will provide room for additional offices and classrooms at 15% the cost of building a new facility.

It's unlikely any cafeteria can prepare food equal to what you mother can make, but the recent cafeteria renovation and the new restaurant in the Residences at Rex, Vistas, provide dining environments equal or superior to any university in Colorado.

When the current fiscal crisis is over, we plan to hire additional faculty in growing programs and to provide cost-of-living raises for faculty and staff, who have gone without raises for three years.

Tuition Concerns

I understand concerns that university status could prompt tuition increases, since the largest tuition increases in Colorado this year tended to occur at universities. But, given the current higher education funding situation, there is no doubt that tuition inevitably will increase at every state college or university in Colorado.

The Adams State Trustees and the administration are determined to keep tuition and fee increases to a minimum. While ASC tuition increased this year, at the same time we implemented significant academic scholarships for both incoming and continuing students. All fees (except the capital construction fee, which supports our campus renewal) have been frozen for the last two years.

As students, if you wish to keep tuition increases under control, you need to become involved in the political process and demand that the legislature appropriate more funds for higher education. ASC alone has lost $1,700 in state funding for every student in the last year. While our 35% increase in enrollment over the last four years has been a boon to our financial situation, it is not enough to offset the 15% decrease in state funding, a loss of $2.3 million. Recently we were told to prepare for another reduction in state funding. Tuition at ASC will increase, regardless of what we call ourselves.

ASC should become ASU-you deserve it, and future ASU students deserve it.