A years-long push by University of Colorado regents to mandate a more robust civics education focused on the country’s founding documents was reined in Thursday as the Board of Regents voted to instead study incoming students’ civics literacy and assess the need from there.

The resolution, voted on during the regents’ meeting Thursday at the University of Colorado Denver campus, passed 7-2. Democratic Regents Irene Griego and Linda Shoemaker voted against the measure.

Beginning in the fall of 2021, CU’s Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs campuses will annually track and report the number of incoming and transfer students who:

  • Pass a Colorado high school civics course with a B- or better
  • Pass an approved similar course in another state with a B- or better
  • Pass the AP American history exam with a score of 3 or better
  • Pass the AP American government exam with a score of 3 or better
  • Pass the IB standard-level or higher-level History of the Americas exam with a score of 5 or better
  • Pass a CU concurrent enrollment class or transferred college credit from a list of approved U.S. history or government courses with a C or better

The university also will track enrollment in existing courses that focus on the foundation of the United States and track participation in regent-approved civics initiatives and events on the different campuses.

The collection of data will cost $200,000 per year for all three campuses, funded in the first two years by the president’s initiatives fund, said Michael Lightner, CU vice president for academic affairs. After the first two years, the university will evaluate the effectiveness of the data collection and determine the next steps.

“I know it will shock you all, but I do support this,” said Regent John Carson, R-Highlands Ranch, who has spearheaded the civics discussion for the past few years. “It’s very consistent with the laws of the regents and guiding principles and mission of the university.”

For years, Carson stressed his concern about college students lacking a fundamental understanding of the United States’ founding documents, history and political processes.

Last year, the Board of Regents asked the Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs campuses to propose a vision for a more robust civics education at their institutions.

Regents gave a thumbs up to Colorado Springs’ proposal in June. The proposal featured a seven-component, $500,000 yearly program including student trips to Washington, D.C.; a new minor with certificate options; and a center dedicated to the study of the development of the American Constitution.

Carson said the proposals from the Boulder and Denver campuses — which proposed courses more focused on social justice — needed to be better fleshed out.

CU’s Faculty Council agreed civics education was paramount for Colorado college students, but worried about regents infringing on academic freedom — the role of the university’s academic experts to determine how best to teach students.

The resolution voted on Thursday was a compromise including faculty input along with input from the impacted campuses, Carson said.

Regents Griego and Shoemaker said they voted against the measure because of its expense, its overlap with Colorado’s existing high school civics graduation requirement and concern about focusing on certain historical lenses that could lack diverse perspectives.