Are you ready for the incredible shrinking education?
The budget cuts being debated down at the state legislature are planning to create this feat. Faculty and administration are buckling up for the ride down the budget hole.
It has become obvious as time has passed and the Colorado legislature has begun the process of balancing the budget, which is required by law in Colorado, that state universities are one of the key places to cut money.
“We don’t have many other areas where we can cut,” said Joint Budget Committee chairman Sen. Dave Owen (R-Greeley) in the Denver Post last week. “They’re the most vulnerable department right now.”
The legislature’s budget committee has suggested cutting higher education by $316 million. This means that almost half ($800 million last year) the funding higher education receives (not just CSU, but all state colleges) would be cut. The Colorado Commission of Higher Education, who decides on much of the budget uses for higher education throughout the state, has agreed that higher education will have budget cuts, but has suggested a number close to 10 percent of the current budget to be cut.
So what does this mean? This means the legislature will have to debate the importance of higher education, and just what and how much can be cut. Some legislators have suggested cutting out whole majors and others have gone as far as cutting whole colleges (Mesa State or Western State, for example.)
If the budget committees suggestion come to fruition, then CSU itself would lose 44 percent of its budget. And we have spent much of that 44 percent already this school year.
So prepare for higher education in Colorado to change. Forget more and better computers. Forget more classes and more faculty members to create diverse educational opportunities. Forget state money to help fund activities and improvements in the student center that we have.
Don’t worry; classes will get easier, because they will all get a lot bigger. And the smaller majors will no longer be important, so those can be cut, too. What about the graduate teaching assistants, GTAs like me, who help you in classes and help professors with their workloads? Those people can stop working and start paying.
Whatever state legislators end up requiring of higher education will mean changes. The money and growth CSU has experienced in the last 10 years to push it from a barely-ranked state school to one the major research facilities in the country, is going to change. As is the opinion students have when they choose to move to Colorado for a good education in a state university. And that means more out-of-state students and their money will be lost, only adding to the budget pit.
Many of the leading state legislators (those on the JBC) seem not to value higher education, even though they come from districts that benefit from having one of the state schools within them. For example, I mentioned Dave Owens from Greeley, the chairman of the JBC. The University of Northern Colorado and its strong programs bring students and money to his district. When UNC feels the shrink, students who can afford education and who want to go to UNC will shrink in number, too.
The state is dealing with a budget downfall. But this does not mean that higher education should become the victim. While its budget may shrink with the rest of the state – watch all that shrinkage, too! – it needs to be maintained to draw students into higher education.
We have seen time and time again that education is the key to an upswing in economics. It seems to me that disabling higher education would only add and prolong the problems in the Colorado economy.
Legislators often do not think of the future. They are restricted by the limits of their terms and their desire to be reelected. But students decide to go to college to improve their futures.
Students are important to Colorado because they are the future of it. Shrinking education shrinks the options for the future of the state.