Higher education is in crisis as much needed funds provided by the state continue to dry up and are siphoned off to be used elsewhere. Colorado is among the worst in state funding of public higher education.
Schools like CU-Boulder, Denver Metropolitan College, our own CSU and many more heavily rely on state funding to keep the doors open and the campus running. Colleges and universities across the state could not operate without state assistance, and we are dangerously close to being on our own.
Tuition continues to rise year after year, forcing more and more students to drop out.
And the tuition burden is being held by fewer and fewer, only increasing the financial strain on those who continue to pursue a degree. The prospect of our state colleges and universities converting into private schools is very real and very frightening.
Of course, rising tuition is not going to force everyone out of school. But even slight increases can force out so many. And certainly, the first people to buckle with the increased burden of rising tuition are those out there trying to break boundaries.
Higher tuition will disproportionately affect low-income families, single parent households and minority groups of all races, colors and orientations.
The limited diversity of our schools will hardly be noticeable while white, upper and middle class kids will come to monopolize higher education, which will, sadly, reinforce stereotypes and social inequities.
This crisis is not passing unnoticed however. On Wednesday, nearly 700 students, joined by a handful of others, took a stand against the neglect of state colleges and universities. I am proud to have been a part of something so meaningful and powerful.
Starting at the Auraria Campus, we students took to the streets in a march to the Colorado State Capitol Building. As a united group, chanting â€œWe are higher ed,â€ we made the policy makers and voters of Colorado aware of our disapproval of the direction our state is going.
For too long, we have stood on our heels waiting for some miraculous solution, but yesterday we demanded our priorities to be re-evaluated.
The higher education rally wasnâ€™t so much about demanding that our state legislators write a new law that would magically bring more funding to our universities, but make the issue visible to the voters of Colorado. Our legislators will prod us along forever, sending us their â€œsupport.â€ But their support has no use in this battle, as their hands are tied.
They have virtually no power to fix this situation. That responsibility falls on us, the voters.
Only we can choose to raise or create new taxes to save higher education. Only we can choose to eliminate tax breaks on businesses profiting off Colorado. And this may be the only way to breath life back into our universities.
This is exactly why visibility is crucial to the cause. We must reach out to our communities and share our stories. We must touch those who are unaware of our dire future prospects. And we must ask them to selflessly help save higher education in Colorado.
Taxes scare people, especially while many are already struggling to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. But an educated populace benefits everyone, and I believe it is fair to ask everyone to contribute.
We must be educated if we want to inherit this society, economy and country that the baby-boomers will soon pass to us. We must be educated if we hope to remain the leaders of the free world.
The rally in Denver was not the end, for we have won no victory. But it is the means in which we will bring this issue into every household in Colorado.
Continue to make the higher education crisis in Colorado visible, and plead with the voters to accept the immediate cost for the sake of our future.
Wade McManus is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.