Democratic candidate for University of Colorado regent wants lower tuition |

Democratic candidate for University of Colorado regent wants lower tuition

Lesley Smith
Courtesy photo

CRAIG – Marine scientist and educator Lesley Smith, candidate for an at-large position on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, says she is running because she loves education and wants to fight for a fair chance for all students.

Smith, a Democrat, said she has been involved in education for some time. She worked at CU Boulder campus in 1989 on a research scholarship. After meeting her husband, she stayed longer than she had planned, and 30 years later, she is running for the regent-at-large position.

During her time in Boulder, she spent eight years serving on the Boulder Valley School District Board of Education, where she managed a $300 million budget, became the first female aquanaut in the underwater Aquarius research facility, and served as associate director of Education & Outreach for CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences.

“Education is my thing,” Smith said. “When I found out the regent seat was open, I decided to jump into the race.”

Lower tuition

Asked about her plans for lowering tuition costs, Smith began by saying she is aware of how much tuition students are paying. According to Smith, in the past, the state covered about 66 percent of tuition costs, with families handling the remaining amount. Those numbers are now reversed, she said, adding she would advocate to get the percentages back to previous levels.

Many community college students transfer to four-year universities, Smith said, and this might be a way of lowering tuition costs through better utilization of transfer credits. As an example, she cited a student from Craig, who took a path similar to the one she described. He first went through a community college, then applied to study at a CU program for a summer and, eventually, transferred to CU, making his four-year track more affordable.

She acknowledged, however, there remain some issues with transfer credits. Smith said she has spoken with the admission office about how the transfer process could be improved. She said she believes CU can work more efficiently with community colleges through the use of transfer advisors, who would work with students to talk about what CU can offer and which classes students should be taking for a particular major.

Other issues

During her campaign travels across the state, Smith said, many have told her student safety is a concern, particularly for minorities, women, and LGBTQ students. She said she advocates strong policies and support systems for students, so they can concentrate on their studies without worrying about personal safety.

Another issue she is campaigning on is the need to attract more highly qualified teachers and graduate students to CU, though she acknowledged that getting qualified instructors to come to CU is a problem, due to limited state funds.

“They (instructors) are the drivers of our university,” Smith said. “They do the teaching, they do the research, they bring in the most amount of money and funding. … A part of that puzzle is to make sure we can attract the best.”

The high cost of housing in the state and is another issue that must be addressed, Smith said, because it deters people from relocating to and working in Colorado.

The regent’s position is similar to a school board director and is charged with overseeing the university president, tuition, and policy, Smith said. She said she wants more rural students to come to CU so they can return to do great things for their communities.

Contact David Tan at or 970-875-1796.