As CSU students get ready to vote in November (many for the
first time), attention is mostly focused on the race for President.
But other contests further down the ballot are also important and
warrant your serious consideration. In particular, with the
Colorado House and Senate fairly evenly divided between Democrats
and Republicans, your votes for state representative and state
Senator will help determine which party controls the statehouse and
writes the state budget for the next two to four years. That in
turn will make a big difference in higher education funding-and in
the quality of the education you receive at CSU.
As CSU President Penley recently stated, several years of cuts
in state funding-millions of dollars in cuts-have left our
university’s finances in a dangerous state (Coloradoan article,
Sept. 15, 2004). Because CSU runs a pretty tight ship, cuts in
funding must be made up in reduced services, increased tuition, or
some combination of the two. We are already seeing this at our
university. Faculty members are retiring and their positions are
not being refilled. Classes are harder to get into and they are
often larger when you do get into them. The CSU Board of Governors
recently proposed a 21 precent increase in tuition to make up for
state funding shortfalls.
The economic outlook for CSU is poor, not because people don’t
want a quality and affordable higher education. More and better
students are applying to CSU than ever before. The
problem is that funding higher education is a low priority of
our Republican governor and Republican State legislature. They have
drastically cut state funding for higher ed, and we are told that
more cuts are in store.
The numbers tell the story. Democrats lost control of the state
senate in 2002, leaving Republicans in complete control of the
state budget. Between fiscal years ’02 and ’04, state tax funds
earmarked for higher education declined 21.8 percent in Colorado.
This was the second steepest decline among all 50 US states during
that time period (data in this piece are from Illinois State
University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy, “Annual
Compilation of Data on State Tax Appropriations”).
After years of anemic support, Colorado now ranks 47th among the
states in per capita appropriations for higher education.
Incredibly, Mississippians spend over twice as much as Coloradoans,
per person, to support their public universities.
Some of this can be laid at the door of the Taxpayers Bill of
Rights (TABOR)-but not all. Some rests directly on the shoulders of
our Republican legislators and governor. Between FY03 and FY04,
Colorado’s general revenues increased 4.3 percent. Due partly to
TABOR , state expenditures during that time decreased by 4.5
percent, but appropriations for higher education decreased by 13.7
That huge decrease in funding shows just how low a priority our
governor and Republican legislators place on higher education,
compared to building roads or prisons. They could have allocated
more money to higher education; no other major area of state
funding was cut so drastically. And of course, we have known TABOR
was death to higher education funding for years. The same governor
and legislators who hide behind TABOR while cutting higher
education, have killed all measures to amend it in the upcoming
When Penley visits the state legislature he must ask for
bipartisan support for higher education. The record is clear:
Republicans do not support higher education in Colorado. Democrats
do. With no gubernatorial race this year, unless Democrats take one
or both houses of the state legislature, there will be no strong
advocacy for higher education down in Denver for at least the next
two years. The cuts will continue.
Before you vote for a Republican in any upcoming state house or
senate race, remember that you are also voting to cut higher
education funding for the next two to four years in Colorado. Those
cuts will translate directly into higher tuition and fees, and
fewer and larger classes, for you and your fellow students.
Philip Cafaro, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Ruth Alexander, Professor of History
Eric Aoki, Associate Professor of Speech Communication
William Bertschy, Director, Pingree Park Campus
Ellen Brinks, Associate Professor of English
Carol Cantrell, Professor of English
Mark Easter, Research Associate, CSU Natural Resource Ecology
David Jones, Ecologist , CSU Center for Environmental Management
of Military Lands
Robert Jordan, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Boris Kondratieff, Professor of Bioagricultural Sciences and
David Lindstrom, Associate Professor of English
Dan Lyons, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
James Maffie, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Norberto Valdez, Associate Professor Anthropology
Irene Vernon, Associate Professor, Center for Applied Studies in