Q&A with Ilana Spiegel, candidate for University of Colorado Board of Regents, 6th District

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Party: Democrat

Area of residence: Unincorporated Arapahoe County

Campaign website: www.ilana4regent.com

What makes you the best choice for this office?

Students, faculty and the community are asking for changes in leadership. As a mother of University of Colorado students, I will defend academic freedom, fight to lower tuition costs, and put our students and educators first. I have a proven track record of fighting for policies to eliminate opportunity gaps for students of color, students with disabilities, and low income and first-generation students, in addition to expertise in education funding and budgets. My background as a public school teacher, with over 20 years of public service, has prepared me to serve as our next University of Colorado Regent.

If you're elected, what single issue will be at the top of your agenda?

Today's students are in a pinch: More jobs than ever require some kind of postsecondary degree or credential, and the cost of obtaining a degree has skyrocketed. That's why my top priority is affordability. We must control costs of higher education.

It is time for Colorado to provide younger generations with many of the same opportunities enjoyed by previous generations by fundamentally reforming financing higher education. Demand for high-cost degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is a large driver of cost. I will partner with business and industry to produce STEM degrees through innovative apprenticeships and co-ops.

If you're elected, what must you accomplish in order for you to consider your term a success?

A change in leadership direction that empowers students, faculty, staff and the community that CU serves will be a key measurement of success. Improving transparency in the budget, driving down costs and increasing financial aid opportunities will open the doors of higher education to all Coloradans, regardless of background or wealth. Creating a model where higher education is applicable, cutting-edge, and relevant to students and the next generation of jobs will be a key accomplishment.

CU Boulder has promised reforms on campus diversity for years, but plans have appeared to be delayed since 2017. What role do regents play in such plans?

To address this issue, we need to listen to our students, faculty and staff by adding and following a systemwide CU Anti-Racist Creed and implementing action items for the reduction of racial injustices from the Black Student Collective on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Student groups are challenging CU to engage all BIPOC-led student, staff and faculty groups in every planning meeting, conversation, document and implementation of anti-racism efforts across CU and include accountability checks at every step of the way. It's time to have representation in (district) 6 and a board majority that is responsive to these student concerns.

In light of the pandemic's effect on tax revenue, how will you address budget shortages on CU campuses?

CU needs bold leadership to advocate for adequate state resources by addressing conflicting constitutional amendments. While some cost savings can be found, CU already runs a pretty lean administration. Additional cuts could be taken, but it's not nearly enough to make a significant impact. We currently fund higher education 48th in the nation. CU builds its budget and sets tuition excluding state funding. This needs to change. I have a proven track record of making the case that public education works and is the best return on public investment for not just educators and students but for the entire state.

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