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Chancellor Horrell gives State of the Campus address

Chancellor Horrell speaks at Wellness Center.
Photo Courtesy of Rob King, CU Denver

CU Denver addressing shifting demographics

On Nov. 15, Chancellor Dorothy Horrell addressed the CU Denver campus, focusing on the recent growth and changing demands of the campus.

Horrell stated that over the last academic year the campus population has grown by 1.5 percent. According to CU Denver Today, this growth is particularly concentrated in the freshman class, currently the largest ever at over 1700 first-year students,  a 15.9 percent increase from Fall 2017. 

To reflect this changing student demographic, Horrell spoke of a proposed project from the Student Development Team, the “first-year housing and dining facility located right in the heart of the CU Denver neighborhood.” Once completed, this project is likely aimed to attract more “traditional” undergraduate students, recent high school graduates, rather than older students or Denver locals who likely will not need to relocate to attend CU Denver.

Candi CdeBaca, Executive Director of Project VOYCE, an organization that empowers young people, believes one of the issues for students in Denver is that “nobody can live close enough to campus for students with no income… housing for students needs to be accessible and affordable.”

The city of Denver is experiencing even more growth outside of the Auraria Campus. According to World Population Review, Colorado’s population increased from 4.30 million in 2010 to 5.68 million in 2018. 

However, this phenomenon is increasingly causing traffic problems and housing shortages, particularly in Denver and Colorado Springs. According to a recent survey from the firm Robert Half, 20 percent of Denverites had quit a job because of a bad commute. Additionally, CPR reports that many Denverites are frustrated that new housing developments in the area focus on apartments instead of single-family homes.

Horrell noted these changes in her address, stating, “The Colorado Front Range is experiencing growth that has brought tremendous opportunity, a robust and diversified economy, and an unemployment rate that is among the lowest in the nation. However, that growth has amplified economic disparity, lack of affordable housing, traffic congestion, environmental concerns, and unequal access to education and health care.”

To mitigate this, Horrell discussed the recently opened “CityCenter at CU Denver,” a program connecting students and faculty to local government agencies, businesses, and nonprofits. The program embraces CU Denver’s status as an urban campus while encouraging students and faculty to “find new solutions to challenging urban issues,” seemingly acknowledging recent issues caused by Denver’s population growth.

Additionally, Horrell noted the recent establishment of the Auraria Task Force on Gentrification and Urban Displacement, which was formed after students raised concern about the wellness center selling ink! Coffee. The coffee chain caused controversy last year after displaying a sign at their Larimer location reading “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014,” which was followed by weeks of protests.

Horrell added that the task force, made up of students, faculty, and staff “is reviewing policies and practices to acknowledge and address the Auraria Campus’ role in gentrification and urban displacement.” The group will present its recommendations by July 2019 on how the campus can be more proactive and responsive to issues caused by Denver’s rapid gentrification.

CdeBaca said that Denver’s population growth isn’t necessarily causing gentrification, but rather, “[she] think[s] it’s about our city policy not catching up to people who are already here.”

Horrell stated toward the end of her address, “We see a future where… CU Denver is recognized as the knowledge partner and talent provider of choice in the region,” emphasizing the campus’ role in a changing community.

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