At high noon on Feb. 17, students from thirteen colleges and universities across Colorado will rally on their campus centers to save higher education in Colorado. We wonâ€™t just be fighting for the right to go to class, weâ€™ll be fighting to keep alive the Western promise.
In the 1860s a common saying seeped into the senses of Americaâ€™s youth â€” a rally cry demanding â€œGo west, young man.â€ A land of opportunity awaited in the West. The West promised to be a place where pioneers could turn hard work into prosperity. But eventually the gold mines closed, the pastures were fenced and the frontier was tamed.
But in 1870, a new frontier was opened: CSU, Coloradoâ€™s first land-grant institution. Young people across the state found a place where the West could survive; a place where young pioneers could again turn hard work into prosperity; a place where study could be exchanged for a degree and where a degree could be exchanged for a lifelong career.
In the next 140 years, higher education in Colorado would be the great engine driving the new West. Recent innovations at CSU in agriculture, engineering and biomedical research has created more than 550 new jobs in Colorado.
CSU is developing the education and leadership needed to realize Coloradoâ€™s green economy and to shake off the current economic recession. But when support for Coloradoâ€™s great economic engine is needed the most, funding for CSU continues to be the least.
And where we were once told â€œGo west, young man,â€ the students of Colorado are now hearing, â€œGo home, young Coloradoans.â€ State lawmakers are already discussing the possibility of closing colleges in Colorado. Other options include privatizing a university and raising tuition by 45 percent. Is the frontier of prosperity being closed down in Colorado?
Never in the 140-year history of CSU has our education been under greater assault, but never has there been greater opportunity for a new juncture.
The shortsighted initiatives of the past thirty years including the Gallagher Amendment, Tax Payerâ€™s Bill of Rights and Amendment 23 have brought higher education to the brink. In 1980, almost a quarter of every dollar that left the state capitol went towards higher education.
This year, we will be lucky to get much more than three cents on the dollar. That wonâ€™t buy you much of an education in this economy.
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle agree that bolstering our colleges and universities is one of the few paths to long economic recovery. But foolish limitations make it impossible for lawmakers to put the money where it matters the most and make it impossible for Colorado to guarantee a college education for every student that deserves it.
Weâ€™ve taken the decisions out of our election officialsâ€™ hands. The power to decide the fate of CSU now rests with the people of Colorado.
Thatâ€™s why we need you. We need to pack the plaza tighter than the library during finals. We need to fill the plaza with students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members on Feb. 17. Round up your friends and classmates, this will be the largest coordinated rally in state history.
With a unified voice we will send the message to Colorado that higher education is too valuable to lose. Students can either sit on the sidelines and allow colleges to be mothballed, or we can stand up together and save higher education in Colorado.
At ASCSU, we feel confident that in the battle for higher education, the last 30 years of special interests will crumble long before our 140-year-old university.
Do not think that students seek to change Colorado. Weâ€™re seeking to fulfill the Colorado promise promised long ago: the promise that the West would be a land of prosperity, a place where new pioneers can work hard to reach the new frontier.
Matt Worthington is the Director of Legislative Affairs for ASCSU. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.