Oct 272009
 
Authors: Abel Oshevire

A calendar with a photo of a motorcycle racer leaning around a bend on a flat track race course hangs from a nail on John Straayer’s office wall.

The calendar represents an interest Straayer found in his 30s that over the course of it left him battered and bruised from crashes.

“I don’t know if I would change anything,” he said. “When you are older, you don’t wonder if you will do it all over again because when you are young, you just do what you do.”/

The image is not something an average student would expect to find in the long-time political science professor’s office. But his long-standing relationship with complex Colorado policy that one state lawmaker said earlier this year leaves higher education in the state “in the yogurt” embodies a palpable parallel between the two rough and tumble subjects.

Straayer’s history with Colorado fiscal policy and higher education

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When Straayer came to CSU in 1966, tuition for an entire year cost $225. /

In the 43 years he has spent teaching political science here since then, he has seen the price skyrocket to $4,822./

Straayer has long been an integral educational figure in Colorado politics, working with state officials, including his former student Gov. Bill Ritter, to slow the alarming increase that has shifted the cost of higher education in Colorado primarily on the backs of students./ /

Straayer was recognized in 2003 by the state legislature for his leadership in directing an internship program for CSU students at the Capitol assisting state lawmakers./

Sitting in his office chair on the top floor of Clark C earlier this semester, Straayer said Colorado is in desperate need of a fiscal policy revamp before higher education can get better./

The problem, which he calls a “tangled mess,” stems from a long line of constitutional policies that work against each other, causing state programs that aren’t mandated to grow to be squeezed out of lawmakers’ priorities./

When he began teaching, the state took responsibility for 75 percent of higher education funding, while students only footed 25 percent on the bill./

But now, 43 years later, the reverse is the case — students bear the majority of the burden for the costs of higher education./

Straayer insists that the only way to solve this problem relies on the people of Colorado, ranging from the business and professional sectors, as well as the higher education level, coming together to provide the necessary and appropriate leadership needed to develop a working fiscal policy./

43 years, nine presidents and still trucking

In his time here, Straayer, who chaired the political science department from 1972 to 1987, has seen nine presidents come and go. /

“When I first started teaching, the students were 18 years and up,” he said. “Forty-three years later, the students are still 18 years and up. It’s like the students aren’t getting old, I am the only one who is. The university has been very good to me. I have very good students as well as colleagues.”/

Straayer is a Michigan native and moved to Arizona in 1964. He earned his Ph.D at the University of Arizona, Tucson in 1967. Straayer is one of CSU’s longest-serving faculty staff members./

He emphasized his love for political science as the reason he has been at the university for such a long amount of time. He describes himself as a “politics junkie.”

“I love teaching political science,” Straayer said. “It is like not ever having to go to work. The people I work closely with are very amazing individuals too.”/

Seth Walter, student government’s Legislative Affairs director from last year, said Straayer’s lectures illustrate a long-standing passion for politics and a knowledge he wishes to pass to Colorado’s students./

And, at 70 years of age, Straayer said that passion will long continue./

“I may die in the class, office or the Colorado state Capitol,” Straayer said, laughing. “I just go on the job from day to day.”/

Straayer advises that in order to be successful, students should read broadly and learn to write well, which requires practice.

He also reminds students that the educational opportunity they enjoy at CSU came as a result of the sacrifices of those before them, and they should remember to make similar sacrifices in future years in order to reinvest for coming generations.

Staff writer Abel Oshevire can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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