NOREEN: CU-CSU rivalry becomes local

December 29, 2009

You may have seen the television commercials recently, touting classes offered by Colorado State University-Pueblo — in Colorado Springs.

Most of the classes are of the continuing education variety, but the little-college-that-could from the south also is offering a masters in business administration degree in direct competition with the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

CSU-Pueblo has been offering classes at Peterson Field, Fort Carson and The Citadel mall for a few years, but the marketing represents a direct appeal to prospective UCCS students.

In tough budget times, does it make sense for one state-funded institution to compete with another?

Whatever one’s answer to that is, the CU and CSU systems have been competing for some of the same students for many years. What’s new is that since Pueblo’s University of Southern Colorado became CSU-Pueblo, the competition has been localized.

CSU-Pueblo President Joe Garcia and UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak acknowledge there is some competition, but they sound like the most amiable of adversaries.

“Pam and I work together. We don’t really need to compete,” Garcia said.

What competition there is “is good because it provides more options,” Shockley-Zalabak said.

UCCS has higher admission standards than CSU-Pueblo. That’s important to some students and not others. One of the biggest feeder schools to UCCS is Pikes Peak Community College, which was headed by Garcia before he took the CSU-Pueblo job.

Why advertise?

“We managed to raise our profile a bit,” Garcia said. “We are attracting more people from outside Pueblo County....We’ve had good growth. I don’t think it’s at UCCS expense.”

For several years, Shockley-Zalabak has noted that a substantially lower percentage of high school graduates in Southern Colorado go on to college, compared with the rest of the state.

“I want UCCS to be a place where people want to come,” she said, “but I want more people to go to school, period.”

There was a time when USC was said to stand for the University of Solid Concrete, a reference to the rather spartan-looking appearance of the Pueblo campus. There also was a time when UCCS was sort of a night school where older students attended after work.

Both campuses now have dorms, athletic teams and enrollments that are growing fast. Both are trending toward being traditional college campuses with an increasingly important role in their cities’ economic development.

Competition between the schools is real and costs a bit, but shouldn’t be overstated, especially if it results in more kids going to college.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:40 a.m. Fridays or read Barry’s blog updates at



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