Markey: Higher ed essential

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Feb 152010
 
Authors: Allison Welter

U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey (D-4) fielded questions Monday from the CSU community about federal plans to sustain the higher education system, saying some federal responsibilities tie the government’s hands in financing certain public programs.

During a 40-minute question and answer session in the Clark Building, professors and students, including agriculture professor Greg Graff, said, without federal funding, colleges and universities will lose their ability to fully function.

“We lose the ability to educate students, to conduct cutting edge research and transmit it to the economy,” Graff said.

Markey agreed with Graff, saying some public initiatives, like national security and health care, enjoy mandated funding streams, which can leave programs without a funding guarantee in the dust.

“Cutting higher education and agriculture will not solve the problems in Defense, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” she said.

The visit comes as Colorado continues to announce crippling cuts to its higher education system –– CSU President Tony Frank said in a meeting with student government’s fee review committee Monday that he expects state funding to be completely gone within the next five years.

For now, federal stimulus money, which Markey said is crucial, is acting as a temporary fix for the problem. But when that money runs out next year, it’s not clear how much longer public higher education will last.

“Education is slipping,” Markey told the full classroom of just more than 50 CSU community members.

Markey said some hope for undergraduate students rests in a federal legislation that she said would streamline the loan process, increase the amount students who qualify for loans through the U.S. Department of Education can receive and decrease interest rates.

The measure is being discussed in Senate, but Markey remains skeptical that it will pass.

She also addressed concerns about federal agriculture policy, saying pending legislation, some of which looks to remove state taxes on certain farms, is taking a backseat to more pressing legislation, like the controversial health care measures proposed by President Barack Obama’s administration.

The CSU Farmer’s Union hosted the event.
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Staff Writer Allison Welter can be reached at news@collegian.com._

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