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Spring 2003
Going After the Best
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“When you save a nickel here, a dime there, $10 million there, it begins to add up,” he says. “We’ve organized ourselves so that the schools and colleges have incentives to save money.”

Colorado, which gets only about 9 percent of its gross operating revenues from the state, counts on a high rate of out-of-state freshmen (about 45 percent) who pay higher tuition.

“We’ve recently introduced a ‘quality for Colorado’ plan that would impose more competitive tuition rates across the board and reduce freshman class size,” explains Lee. “In this manner, we’ll be able to recruit and retain the best faculty, enhance academic and research programs and improve financial-aid benefits. (It’s) quality rather than quantity.”

All this competition can be a mixed blessing for education, experts agree.

“On the one hand, competition drives excellence, so top schools are constantly re-examining themselves and their work,” says Immerwahr. “On the other hand, all the attention goes to the competitive programs, so the less competitive areas suffer. For example, if everyone is competing for faculty members who can bring in research dollars, the teaching mission may suffer.”

But from another perspective, says Lee, “ACADEMIC COMPETITION FORCES US TO BE BETTER. WE SCRUTINIZE PROGRAMS MORE CLOSELY, STRIVE TO RECRUIT BETTER STUDENTS AND FACULTY AND GENERALLY FOCUS ON WHAT WE DO BEST.

“That streamlined structure allows prospective students to know what our specialties are and better match their particular interests,” Lee says.“It creates an environment that’s academically more challenging.”

Roberta G. Wax is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Her last article for UCLA Magazine looked at political scientist Frank Gilliam and his research on how media distort the public’s perception of minorities.

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