Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Chancellor, parents look to the future during Discoveries week

With scores of new University of Denver parents in attendance, Chancellor Robert Coombe appropriately cast an eye to the future at the parental question-and-answer session that traditionally kicks off the academic year.

Fresh from moving DU’s newest students into their residence halls on Labor Day, parents participating in the Sept. 7 session had questions about the coming years: their children’s future, the future of tuition and education, and the future of the University itself.

Coombe delivered with frank talk and a clear vision — discussing everything from DU’s efforts to hold tuition increases to no more than four percent per year for the foreseeable future to emerging trends in textbooks. Near the end of the session, one parent thanked the chancellor for his openness, garnering applause from others in the audience.

Addressing an increasingly common concern about the rising cost of textbooks, Coombe said he sees change ahead. Already, he said, many students rent textbooks to save money. And as an early user of the Kindle e-reader, he said the development of electronic texts may change the way students buy “books.”

“I’m convinced that’s the way we’re going, sooner or later,” he said. “The technology is there … the cost question is the real issue.”

Parents, concerned about their children’s future, peppered the chancellor with questions about DU’s study abroad programs, work study, graduation rates, acceptance rates into graduate programs and employment after graduation. Coombe said DU’s numbers are impressive, with most who want to get into medical school being accepted within two years of graduation. As for those headed to the job market, he said DU is aggressively developing placement programs, including internship programs and close ties with alumni. He added that helping graduates land satisfying employment is “an obligation we have.”

Looking to DU’s future, Coombe said the University’s endowment is in a good place, recovering almost entirely from the stock market drop in the last two years. He said there is an ongoing effort to at least double DU’s $300 million endowment.

After a frantic decade of construction that saw 14 buildings erected in 10 years, the pace of construction on campus has slowed, he said. The two projects closest on the horizon include a $32 million overhaul of the Penrose Library and a $50 million computer science and engineering building. In the future, more of the University’s resources will be put into development of new student programs and continued development of the faculty, he said.

DU has moved ahead at a strong pace since the 1990s, Coombe said. The school’s reputation is improving, he said, and he expects to see the University ranked among the top 50 universities in the country.

“I will put our undergraduate programs against anybody’s in the country,” he said. “Anybody’s.”

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