Higher Ed to be cut again

Nov 012009
Authors: Matt Minich

CSU is facing another $29 million in cuts to its $800 million annual budget CSU officials said after Gov. Bill Ritter announced his plan to make cuts of about $145 million, or 40 percent, to Colorado’s higher education budget last week.

Facing declining revenues, Ritter outlined his plan to cut $286 million from the state’s budget for the fiscal year 2010 — an announcement that comes just days before meetings begin about the state’s 2011 budget, which will also likely see significant cuts if trends continue, said Rep. John Kefalas, D-52.

“Every quarter, revenue continues to fall,” he said.

The budgetary hole created by the cuts will be backfilled with discretionary funds provided to the governor from the federal government under the American Renewal and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus package.

While replacing the cuts with stimulus funds will prevent universities like CSU from feeling the immediate effects of the cuts in the next fiscal year, no definite solutions exist for how the university will handle the cuts after going over what CSU officials have referred to as a financial “cliff” when stimulus funds run out by 2012.

If state revenues do not improve before the funds run out, the university will be forced to take actions such as shrinking the organization or increasing enrollment and tuition, CSU President Tony Frank said in an e-mail.

Higher education is especially vulnerable to cuts, as it is one of few major elements of the budget not protected by the state constitution, said CSU political science professor John Straayer.

Because of this vulnerability and the consistent reduction of state revenues, he said the recent round of cuts were of no surprise to those with their fingers on the pulse of the Colorado fiscal environment.

“Everybody who’s paying attention should’ve seen that the stars were going to align,” Straayer said.

Though the cuts, should they go through, will leave the university with many serious questions, CSU officials denied that they were seriously considering partially or fully privatizing the university.

University officials and legislators alike are dead-set against the idea of privatization, which has been discussed only as a possibility, Straayer said.

“The talk of privatizing comes out of desperation and speculation about the worst case scenario.”

In his e-mail, Frank outlined his clear stance against privatization, calling the American public higher education system “the greatest system of public higher education in the world” and asserting that privatization of higher education would “write off the human potential of a large segment of our population.”

Senior Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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