Oct 202009
Authors: Kirsten Silveira, Aaron Hedge

Student government President Dan Gearhart sent a message to the Associated Students of CSU deriding an article that printed in The Denver Post Tuesday asserting that the university is considering moving to a privatized funding model as being inaccurate.

The article was written in response to a presentation given at an Oct. 1 meeting with CSU’s governing board on campus that weighed a number of scenarios that could face the university if Colorado’s tight finances for higher education continue to dwindle.

“The discussion was an exploration of different models of tuition,” Gearhart’s note said. “I believe the board understands that we cannot go private and keep our mission as a land grant institution.”

Michele McKinney, the chief spokesperson for the CSU System Board of Governors, said the presentation, given by the system’s chief financial officer Rich Schweigert, was strictly an outlook on possible funding models for the university should the state stop funding public higher education.

“That was it,” she said. “It was like, ‘Thank you, Rich.'”

Concerns have brewed among state lawmakers and higher education officials for the last 10 years about funding for the state’s colleges and universities as Colorado has consistently ranked dead last in the nation in terms of funding for public higher education.

Lawmakers are predicting that if nothing is done to quell the problem before federal stimulus dollars run out in fiscal year 2012, Colorado will no longer be able to sustain its higher education system financially, and institutions will be forced to scramble for alternative funding lines.

University officials from institutions across the state have spent much time in the last five years fostering relationships with the Colorado business and political communities to gain support for a solid funding model for their entities.

But as financial cuts loom, the board is looking for answers on how CSU will fund itself in the future if the Colorado community fails to pull its colleges and universities out of the mud.

“The board just wants to know if the sky falls, what would happen?” McKinney said.

University leaders have said that if the sky does fall, CSU would be forced to change its focus and funding model.

“You’d be a smaller, more expensive institution,” said CSU President Tony Frank in an interview earlier this semester.

Gearhart said in an interview with the Collegian that, if CSU were to privatize, it would lose its most important battle of remaining the state’s flagship land grant institution, and accessibility for CSU would spiral downward.

“I’m worried about the middle class students being snubbed out because their family, or they make too much but not enough,” he said.

The Post story, McKinney said, skewed the presentation, adding that Schweigert was only illustrating possible models for the future.

Development Editor Aaron Hedge and Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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