Cooperative Extension Staffing for Colorado
Our challenge is to develop a staffing pattern from which to sustain and build Extension, and to provide
adequate structure to support the work of developing, delivering and measuring the impact of quality
educational programming to meet priority needs of the citizens of Colorado. While the current system
has been used for years and is known, it has become apparent during times of budget reductions that the
system is not scalable or flexible. Reductions result in the elimination of expertise and programming in
individual counties. There is no formal mechanism that allows expertise from other counties/areas to fill
gaps. In most instances, fully employed agents take on additional responsibilities to cover for lost staff,
spreading themselves even thinner. Many agents also fill multiple roles in the current system, spreading
their time and expertise thin.
What we need from you:
Your ideas on how to most effectively deliver balanced and focused programming across Colorado
Your insights and cooperation in increasing collaboration among counties
What issues and needs have to be addressed to make this work for you
Your support in changing the way Extension is staffed in Colorado
The current Extension staffing pattern in Colorado is county based with
agents located in and working primarily in response to the needs of a
specific county’s residents. State and federal funds support campus
specialists, administration and approximately 80% of the salary and
benefits of formula Extension agents in the county – the county
contributes the balance. Counties fully support the cost of local office
operations and additional staff. Based on county size and programming
needs, from 1 to 4 formula agents work in each of the 59 Colorado
counties that partner with CSU to provide Cooperative Extension.
CE Budget Reduction by County
Over the past 3 years, state budget support for Cooperative
Extension has decreased by $1.8 million while the cost of doing
business has continued to rise. Reductions have resulted in the loss
of 33 full time field agents, specialists, administrators and support,
loss of entire programs such as the Center for Rural Assistance, and
reduced capacity to respond to county programmatic needs. 27
Colorado Counties have individually felt the impact of staff
reductions and the resulting loss of needed programs and expertise.
In comparison to peer states and State funding is significantly less than all
peer states on a dollar per capita basis
institutions, CSU Cooperative
State approp funds per capita, 2001
Extension is challenged to maximize its resources in order to serve a Footnote 43 Peers
diverse and growing Colorado population. CSU Peers
(Footnote 43 Peers: Univ of Arizona; Montana State Univ; North Dakota State Univ; 4
Oklahoma State Univ; Oregon State Univ; Washington State Univ. CCHE Peers: Iowa State Univ; Michigan
State Univ; North Carolina State Univ; Ohio State Univ; Oklahoma State Univ; Oregon State Univ; Purdue 3
Univ; Texas A&M Univ; Univ of California-Davis; Univ of Illinois; Washington State Univ. CSU Peers: Iowa
State Univ; Kansas State Univ; Michigan State Univ; North Carolina State Univ; Oklahoma State Univ;
Oregon State Univ; Texas A&M Univ; Univ of Georgia; Univ of Missouri; Univ of Nebraska; Virginia Poly 1
Inst & Univ; Washington State Univ.)
What we need in a staffing pattern:
A strong local presence to connect the university, our county partner and citizens.
Flexibility to meet priority programming needs.
A scalable system that can expand and contract with programming needs and budget.
Enhanced capacity and ability to respond locally in programming.
What we are committed to:
Working with Extension’s current staff wherever possible to match people with appropriate
positions; provide retraining and opportunities to recognize and develop expertise.
Engaging stakeholders in the decision making, planning and transition process.
Providing balanced and focused programming state-wide.
Recognizing that one size or one system may not fit every situation.
Not passing budget reductions on to partners.
Options on the Table:
There are two patterns that Extension is considering based on our own experiences, experiences of other
Extension systems, and our own staff input.
Area staffing pattern
The area plan is currently employed by a number of counties in
Colorado. Budget areas occur where a defined group of counties
enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to share staff over a
set geographic area. The counties work cooperatively with
Extension to set staffing priorities. Individual counties or the
area can also hire entirely county/area funded agents to meet
specific county or area needs. Generally an office is staffed in
each county. An area director is selected to provide
administrative and program oversight in the current Colorado
In this model, counties would be provided with a base staff
housed in and serving as the local presence. This base staffing is
then overlaid with programming expertise, such as program
specialists who are housed in a local office yet serve multiple
counties based on need. Programming areas would not
necessarily be the same for specialists housed in the same office.
For example, county A may receive a base allocation of one
agent, who, based on county input and needs provides primary
support for the county 4-H program. A Nutrition/Food Safety
program specialist, who is also housed in county A, may provide
Base staff + specialist overlay
programming in counties A, B, C and D. An agronomist from
county C, a Natural Resources agent from county F and a
parenting specialist located in county D also provide
programming support in county A, although not located there.
The local 4-H program could be supported through either base
staff, program specialists, or a combination. County funds
(primarily) plus some state funds are used as the main support
for the base staff. State and federal funds are used as the main
support for program specialists with a smaller proportion of
Benefits of the change:
Opportunity for agents to specialize in more specific subject matter; extend that expertise across
Availability of program specialists to address issues locally.
Greater quality and consistency statewide in programming; increased access to programs and
ability to measure outcomes.
Enhanced teamwork among program specialists/agents to provide both subject specific and
interdisciplinary approaches to education and problem solving.
Improved access to human and program resources – ability to capitalize on the strengths of others
and their programs.
Program planning involving multi-county, and program specific advisory groups.
Some flexibility within each model to accommodate local needs and preferences.
Ability to vary staffing concentration in response to local and statewide programming and fiscal
Increased opportunity to use technology to appropriately meet audience program and information
Greater potential for alternative funding through grants and contracts.
Challenges and opportunities:
Moving from the current system of individualized county Extension operations to a system of
shared expertise; navigating the political realities and individual preferences among counties.
Discuss, work through budget or fiscal management changes, if any, as needed.
Perceived equity among counties in regards to investment and receipt of programming.
Compatibility of technologies across communities and audiences.
Program Specialist/Agent scheduling, communication and coordination over larger areas and
Changing client expectations.
Making hard decisions in regards to focusing staff expertise, programming and information
resources to meet the highest priority needs of Coloradoans; developing and implementing
alternative delivery mechanisms to ensure broad access to the resources of Cooperative
Extension, Colorado State University and the Land Grant system.
About Colorado State University Cooperative Extension:
Cooperative Extension is the front door to Colorado State University, providing the extensive knowledge,
research capabilities and resources of this premier land-grant university to Coloradoans from all walks of
life. With offices located in 59 of Colorado’s 64 Counties, Cooperative Extension is the University’s
conduit for understanding and responding to the informal educational needs of local citizens. Cooperative
Extension’s employment base includes 8 administrators, 46 campus and field-based specialists, 130 field
faculty (22 of whom are fully county funded), 7 educators, and 45 campus-based and approximately 110
county-funded program assistant technical and support staff. Extension’s $26.9 million dollar budget is
funded through several sources: state ($7.5 million, 28%), federal government ($3.96 million, 14.71%),
local county governments ($11.5 million, 42.46%) and grants and contracts ($4 million, 14.83%).
Primary products of Cooperative Extension include educational programs at the state, local and regional
level; on-line and print information; individualized application of information; and individual and
community capacity development in the areas of leadership, information and program delivery and
problem solving. Extension’s program areas include: 4-H and Youth Development; Strong Families,
Healthy Homes; Nutrition, Health and Food Safety; Natural Resources and the Environment;
Competitive/Sustainable Agricultural Systems and Community Resource Development. Each program
area is composed of one or more work teams whose function is to develop strategies and curriculum to
address priority educational needs statewide, program associates responsible for helping to focus CCA
efforts and deliver programs, and program cooperators such as advisory groups and university and
community partners. To learn more about Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and its
program leadership model, go to http://www.ext.colostate.edu/staffres/program/
Extension’s Mission: The mission of Cooperative Extension is “to provide information and
education, and encourage the application of research-based knowledge in response to local, state,
and national issues affecting individuals, youth, families, agricultural enterprises, and
communities of Colorado.”
Extension’s Vision: Cooperative Extension is the front door to Colorado State University
providing the extensive knowledge, research capabilities and resources of this premier land-grant
university to Coloradoans from all walks of life. Cooperative Extension is dedicated to serving
current and future needs of Coloradoans by providing educational information and programs that
safeguard health, increase livelihood and enhance well being.
Extension’s Value Statements:
We recognize the equal importance of university research, education and outreach.
We build the capacity of people and communities.
We collaborate to provide education to Colorado citizens.
We are accessible to all constituencies and honor diverse viewpoints.
We are unbiased in knowledge shared.
We are oriented to the future through effective innovation.
We encourage a supportive and inclusive environment.
We are good stewards of public resources.
CSU Cooperative Extension Milan Rewerts, Director
Tel: (970) 491-6281