I am sorry if I burst any idealist's bubble out there or offend the few philosophy majors reading this column, but I have an ultimate truth that I need to share with you: money makes the world go round. If you have money, you can buy things, and once you have things, you can do things, and doing things is what life is all about.
Universities and colleges are no exception to that rule. Today, every institution of higher education must ask for millions and millions of dollars from private donors to survive – even traditionally government-funded institutions like CSU.
Funding for our school is not something we students regularly think about. I mean, why should we? The voters just passed Referendum C, an initiative that will provide funding for CSU – along with other educational institutions – and keep our tuition from increasing exponentially. Plus, we pay our tuition bill every semester, along with those outrageous book prices – we do our part, gosh darn it!
So, why should we think about funding? Because of this simple fact: every chair in which we sit, every desk on which we write, and every slide projector at which we look all have to be paid for by someone, and our tuition is just not enough to settle the bill.
We are in a new era that requires more money than ever to operate a high quality educational institution like CSU; an institution, which can afford to teach its students with more than just lectures and online courses – a reality for some under-funded schools in this day and age.
Instead, here at CSU, we have live animals that can be studied and examined to help teach our veterinarian students and fancy lab equipment to help our chemistry students learn how to make substances that may, one day, cure cancer.
To keep CSU at a level of other high quality learning and research universities, President Larry Penley and his administration have had to focus on finding an answer to the growing problem of footing the bill at CSU.
Penley is fully aware of what it takes to survive in today's funding landscape – no president before him has faced all the unique funding issues that Penley has dealt with or succeeded so greatly in answering them.
Since arriving at CSU in 2003, Penley has created a strategic plan that he said gave the university "a sense of direction," and reorganized the school's administration to help face the rising fiscal pressures.
"We have to behave like a private institution and focus on all sources of revenue that are available," Penley told me in an interview last semester. "We just can't deliver without it."
Behaving like a private institution includes courting individual and corporate donors to help fund the future of CSU and its students. In the nearly two and a half years Penley has led CSU, he said he has done just that with the help of many others in the administration, including Don Fry, vice president of university development and advancement, who was hired in May 2004.
"Fundraising is a positive thing, something that is certainly part of the landscape today," Fry said last semester. "We have to be more bold and outward in how we approach the needs of the university, and private support is vital for moving the university forward."
Looking at the numbers from Penley's administration so far, the strategy is working. Penley was at the helm last year when the largest single donation in the history of the university took place – Ed Warner's donation of $30 million to the College of Natural Resources.
In addition to Mr. Warner's large contribution, the school received other private donations totaling nearly $60 million in 2005 alone. Add to that the increase in alumni support Penley has garnered – up from $2.3 million in 2003 to $5.2 million in 2005 – and it is safe to say that the president is answering the call for increased funding.
It is a call that is ringing louder and louder everyday, a fact that is easily overlooked in our everyday student experience. Ed Warner put it this way in an e-mail Wednesday.
"Government expenditures have been in decline at the precise time that the university has undergone considerable growth. The 'budget' doesn't balance. The difference has to be made up by those of us who think higher education is really important to both individuals and the society at large."
So the next time you look at your tuition bill, realize something – we are not the only ones trying to pay for our education. Everyday, those running this grand institution of green and gold are striving to sell "the story" of CSU, as President Penley described it.
"People don't give us money to buy paper clips, they give it because they think they can see something good come out of this university," Penley said. "They are buying into the belief that they will make a difference in society with that money."
Money talks, ladies and gentleman, and we the students are certainly not the only people who understand this fact. Everyone wants money, and we are lucky to have a president and administration skilled enough to make people do something truly rare – give that precious money away.
Certainly our bills tax us every semester, but we need to gain a little perspective. Just think about what that bill or our classrooms might look like if we didn't have strong advocates like President Penley and his administration working to advance our beloved CSU — with as little involvement from our pocket books as possible.
Jake Blumberg is a technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.