The Lumina Foundation for Education, a private foundation dedicated to expanding access to education beyond high school, recently found CSU to be unaffordable for low-income students. Even with loans, students with a family income in the bottom 25 percent of the state would not be able to afford to attend CSU. CSU is one of the five Colorado public schools (including CU Boulder and the Colorado School of Mines) that are considered unaffordable in the survey. But while CSU needs to be accessible to more students, it should not be at the expense of the quality of education.
In 2000, CSU was actually ranked 48th in the nation as a “best buy,” meaning the best quality of education for the amount of money you’re spending. That means though CSU tuition may be high, students are receiving a lot for the money they spend. We shouldn’t cut the CSU budget in order to make the school affordable; there’s no point in making a school affordable if it’s not worth attending. Rather, CSU needs to focus its efforts on different ways to help create a buffer for the cost of education.
There should be more emphasis on helping low-income students find financial aid and scholarships that are available to them. CSU should also work towards increasing alumni donations to create more scholarships.
The burden of this problem shouldn’t lie with CSU, though; it should lie with the state. Colorado currently ranks 47th in the nation in terms of legislative funding for students. That’s a huge problem. If Colorado can’t get enough money from the state, it means public universities in the state must continue to raise tuition. Currently, Colorado ranks fifth nationally in the percentage of funding that comes from tuition, meaning the state relies on tuition more than most. Obviously the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment limits the amount of money that can be spent on higher education in Colorado, but the state still hasn’t spent even the money it had to use for higher education.
The problem also lies in the rising cost of education around in the nation. Over the past five years, the average university has raised tuition 25 percent. In Colorado, students are a bit luckier because TABOR limits the amount of money to which tuition can be raised. Colorado schools have only raised tuition 10 percent in the past five years.
CSU’s inability to make itself affordable for low-income students is a problem that reaches beyond the walls of this school. It is part of a nation-wide trend that must be solved in each area of the funding.