Asked Wednesday at a town hall meeting if he would support the CU Foundation divesting of fossil fuels -- a move recently approved by the student body -- University of Colorado President Bruce Benson wasn't convinced.

"I'm not going to do that," said Benson, who noted he got his start working in the oil business in 1957. "It's a great industry."

Simon Mostafa, a doctoral student in CU's environmental engineering program, asked Benson the question, saying removing endowment investments from the fossil fuel industry would support CU's reputation as a "green" university.

In the spring election, students voted in favor of divesting of fossil fuels by a 2-to-1 margin. According to the CU student government website, 6,386 students cast their votes on the ballot question.

But Benson said exciting things are happening in the natural gas industry, which has a relatively small carbon footprint.

The town hall meeting is designed as an annual update on the state of the university.

Benson also talked about the possibility of pursuing a statewide ballot initiative to raise money for higher education. But he said numerous other potential destinations for tax funding -- including K-12 education -- poll far better than higher education, making a new tax "a non-starter."

Still, he said CU officials will look at every avenue to increase funding. The CU system only receives 5.3 percent of its annual funding from the state, and alternate funding sources need to be explored, he said.

"We will be polling this summer to see what we might be able to do," he said. It will be "kind of a piecemeal strategy because I think that is what it has got to be, because there is not going to be a big fix so we're going to look at little things."

Benson lauded fundraising efforts at CU, with a record-setting $228.6 million collected during the last fiscal year, but said the school could do better, which is why it has commissioned a study to see how it might increase those totals.

"We need to look more like UCLA or (the University of California) Berkeley," he said. "Berkeley raised $405 million, and we're in the low 200s."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com.