Candidate for University of Colorado regent wants lower tuition
CRAIG — Businessman Ken Montera, candidate for an at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, says he is running for the position because wants to lower tuition for students.
According to his campaign website, Montera, a Republican, has 30 years of experience in the business sector, including work at four Fortune 200 companies. Thanks to a CU scholarship, Montera became the first member in his family to go to college and said he wouldn’t have been able to attend without assistance.
Now, he said, he wants to give back to the state and the university.
Montera said one of the things he learned from running a large corporation is that bloat and bureaucracy often stand as roadblocks to progress. Though he acknowledged he isn’t entirely familiar with the university’s system and has no plans to change its financial model, he said the significant increase in the cost of higher education during the past five years is concerning.
“What I do know is that the university only gets 7 percent of its budget from the state …,” Montera said. “Everything else is coming from tuition, endowments and fundraising.”
This, he said, raises the question of why so little funding is coming from the state.
As for how he might help lower tuition costs, Montera said the number of STEM — or Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics — degrees awarded is growing faster than arts and sciences degrees. STEM degrees are more expensive due to the expense of laboratories and equipment, and this, Montera said, might be driving the tuition increases. He believes there must be opportunities to evaluate the revenue and budgetary systems.
The questions of whether professors should receive wage increases or if the amount of fees paid by students should be reduced are worth debating, Montera said, adding he believes professors should be paid well, but students should have the opportunity to receive the best educations possible.
“There are a lot of talented kids, and I am sure they can’t get to do the things they want to do because of financial constraint,” Montera said.
Montera also stressed the importance of students knowing the value of their educations. For example, Montera said, an undergraduate student with a degree in poetry might have had a good educational experience in college, but are the skill they learned translatable to the market? Students need such information to make informed decisions when deciding which field to study. He said he was fortunate to have mentors, who helped him understand what he could do with his degree.
Montera, himself, started college as a political science major, but changed course following his first year, after colleagues who were business majors questioned the marketability of the degree he was seeking. After doing some research, Montera said, he realized that, beyond teaching or politics, his chosen degree afforded few future options. He subsequently switched to the school of business.
“We need to do a better job telling students what the market looks like on what they want to pursue,” Montera said.
Asked why he should be elected regent over his opponent, Dr. Lesley Smith, Montera said the role of a regent isn’t to create curriculum or make academic decisions, rather, to manage strategic decisions affecting the health and growth of the university. He said his business background uniquely suits him to the position.
The major responsibility of the board of regents is to establish strategies for the university, discharge fiduciary responsibilities and approve or disapprove tuition increases, Montera said, adding that he has been making these kinds of decisions for some 30 years.
A third-generation Coloradan, Montera grew up in Pueblo and graduated from the CU Leeds School of Business.