Jan 312008
Authors: Edie Adams

Colorado’s higher education funding is among the worst in the nation, and it’s creating a problem for those looking for in-state work, according to a recent study.

A report released last month places Colorado near the bottom of the nation’s education funding bucket, yet simultaneously ranks it as third highest for bachelor’s degrees or higher held by its citizens — two statistics that create what the Metro Denver Economic Corporation’s report calls the “Colorado Paradox.”

Colorado has a “knowledge-based” economy, said Tom Clark, vice president of MDEC.

And the highest paying jobs are in the fields of aerospace, energy and software, respectively — jobs that require more than a high school education.

While the job market is flourishing, fewer students are going to college, and out-of-state workers are taking new jobs, analysts found.

“The problem that Colorado’s got is that it’s not paralleling that importing brain power with its own brain power,” said John Straayer, a CSU political science professor. “We’re not doing the job. It means that this state tops the charts in the effort to destroy its own seed corn.”

Colorado placed high in several categories, including being the “skinniest” state, but as far as education was concerned, its ratings were abysmal.

It ranked 48th in the nation for higher education spending and state support for students, as well as state and local support per full-time student.

In contrast, Colorado ranks third in the nation for bachelor’s degrees or higher held by citizens 25 or older.

The report compares Colorado to other states in all aspects, from the composition of its workforce to education and health.

It is meant to increase public awareness of the state’s “strengths and challenges,” Clark said.

Meggin Lewis, a sophomore double-majoring in international studies and political science, is frustrated at the situation, which she says is a complex problem.

“Education always needs work,” she said. “The government can never really get it right.”

Lewis, who is paying for her own education, holds two jobs on campus to help pay for expenses.

It is worrisome that out-of-state employees are taking Colorado jobs, she said, because that means there is no guarantee that a bachelor’s degree from CSU is worth it in the long run.

“We’re always paying, paying, paying,” she said. “I worry about my future.”

Each year, MDEC studies are given to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which is responsible for getting attention for these issues in legislature.

Staff writer Edie Adams can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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