Jan 252010
 
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

Higher education could face more crippling cuts this week when the state appropriations committee attempts to compensate for yet another $50 million shortfall projected in Colorado’s budget.

The additional cuts, which were announces last month, widens the gap for an already mammoth $2 billion shortfall the state experienced over the last year.

The Colorado Joint Budget Committee will meet Wednesday to devise a plan on how to cushion the most recent blow, said Gov. Bill Ritter’s chief spokesperson Evan Dreyer.

“People talk about cutting fat, cutting muscle, cutting bone, cutting bone marrow. We’re beyond all of that,” Evan Dreyer said.

Higher education is one of the only state programs that is not mandated to grow by edict of state law, and is typically one of the first on the chopping block when state official announce shortfalls.

K-12 education, a protected budget line under a 2000 measure called Amendment 23, currently makes up 45 percent of the state budget, Dreyer said, while higher education is “wholly exposed” to cuts and accounts for only about 9 percent of the budget.

In the current fiscal year, higher education’s funding stream is made up of $1.3 billion from tuition and fees coming from student wallets, $329 million from the state and $377 million from President Barack Obama’s controversial stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

CSU President Tony Frank stressed in an e-mail message to the Collegian that lawmakers should consider the benefits an educated populace provides to a community before cutting more from higher education.

“The taxes paid on the higher wages a college-educated citizen earns repay many times over the taxes spent to educate these people,” Frank said, adding that deciding where to pull funding from isn’t an easy one. “They need all of our support and ideas as they approach decisions that will have a far more profound effect on our grandchildren than they will on us.”

Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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