CSU President Larry Penley says he has nothing to hide.
Penley told the CSU Faculty council Tuesday that his attempt to push a state senate measure that would have meant a hefty increase in tuition was neither secretive, nor unethical.
“This should not have been a surprise to students,” Penley said in an address to the Faculty Council, a group that represents the academic faculty. “We were not trying to hide what we were up to and as far as I can tell, there was nothing immoral or unethical about the bill.”
Buffeted by criticism from student leaders and state politicians, the university president has been on the defensive for nearly a week – after he pushed for a measure that would have given CSU an extra $34 million in spending authority. But that spending authority would have come at a cost: a 43 percent increase in tuition for thousands of CSU students.
Penley told the council that student leaders were included in the process leading up to the submission of the last-minute amendment to the state’s budget.
But Jason Green, president of the Associated Students of CSU, says he never heard a word about the amendment.
“There was never a discussion about the amendment, and we didn’t know there was discussion about tuition” Green said. “We understand that the university needs money. And we want to be included in all the steps.”
Penley said he was concerned about the funding gap between CSU and peer universities and pointed out that Colorado institutions of higher education trail $832 million below the average spending of peer universities in other states.
“I want to make sure you all get the best education we can provide,” Penley told the Collegian Tuesday. “I want a university of quality, and that takes resources.”
CSU has seen a steady decline in faculty from 1992 until 2006. If a spending increase were approved, CSU would be able to recruit more quality faculty members and improve academic and research programs, Penley said.
Some faculty members said they support the university’s efforts.
“The faculty is enthusiastically supportive,” said Robert Jones, chair of the faculty council. “This is an unprecedented effort to get resources for the university.”
Jones said he has not heard any complaints from members of the Faculty Council about the amendment.
‘We realize that we have lost so much in competitiveness,” he said. “We are not making the progress we would like to have as a university.”
The best example of inequity in spending authority, Penley said in a university-wide e-mail earlier this week, can be seen in the financial disparity between CSU and CU-Boulder. The spending authority of CU-Boulder is three times that of CSU.
“We need to keep tuition relatively low, and even if we closed the gap, we would still be below our peers and CU,” Penley said.
An increased spending authority would also give CSU the power to provide more scholarships, Penley said.
“We must take the revenue we have and make education more affordable for students from working class families,” Penley said.
Colorado is one of the least expensive states for a college education, despite being almost last in state funding for higher education. And among Colorado institutions, CSU has been rated as one of the best for the price.
“I don’t want to raise tuition for students,” Penley said. “We must assure access, but we also must assure success; it is a tough balance.”
Green said that ASCSU is working on strategies to improve the communication between students and the administration.
“If we can all have a unified front, that makes us all look better,” he said. “Students have an extremely powerful voice and that is now being recognized.”
Penley agreed, saying that more communication is needed.
“There are mechanisms in place, but apparently we need to do more than we have already done,” he said.
Staff writer Emily Polak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org