Welcome to State, suckers

Aug 132007
Authors: Sean Reed

I would like to personally congratulate every new student for choosing the very worst state in which to get a public university education.

A study released March 8 by State Higher Education Executive Officers, a group devoted to advancing awareness of higher education issues, has now placed Colorado dead last in funding for higher ed after many years of flirting with becoming the lowest in the union.

The major cause of this current state of events, according to the study, was a 37.5 percent decrease per full time student in the amount of money appropriated by the state for our states universities, a much more dramatic increase than the nation’s average of 14.2 percent drop.

At the same time, enrollment in our state has gone up 12.3 percent in the same time period, leaving the already strapped for cash universities looking for some way to provide for the students they are getting less and less money from the state to support.

For students, this dilemma means higher tuition.

Over the past five years, the study stated that tuition has jumped about 15 percent, and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon, much to the chagrin of students.

At CSU alone, we are seeing a five percent increase this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more followed. In spite of how much we loathe digging into our wallets (or our parent’s), it’s something we expect more of.

Right now, Colorado institutions are getting an average of $7,644 per full time student compared with $9,891 annually. To stay competitive, they have to find some way to fill the gap.

As much as I griped about Penley when he tried to sneak through his tuition increase in state budget last semester, I see where he was coming from. We need money, and we need it badly.

That being said, tuition increases really aren’t the answer.

Tuition in Colorado, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, accounts for about 58 percent of college funding. Nationally the average is significantly lower, with only 37 percent of funding coming from tuition.

That means that the majority of funding in our schools depends on their ability to keep enrollment at a reasonable level.

This puts university presidents in a dire predicament.

They can’t count on the federal or state government to raise tuition at the moment, so if they don’t raise tuition, funding will drop per student, services to students will decline, as will the quality of teachers, followed by enrollment. If enrollment drops, that means even less money.

Conversely, if they raise tuition, the university could look less attractive to incoming freshman, and they may enroll somewhere else. This, again, could mean lower enrollment, and therefore less money and all the bad things associated with that.

Either way, the university loses.

There are only two solutions to this problem. Either the state budget needs to be overhauled with higher ed in mind, or the incredibly taxaphobic Colorado residents need to sacrifice the extra flat screen and put that little extra to helping our starving universities.

Of course, there is one problem in the second plan – the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

TABOR is a law that puts a cap on how much the state budget can grow in a given fiscal year. If a tax increase is the answer, lawmakers either need to be creative enough to fit the increase in funding within the limits of the cap, or they need to do what they did with Referendum C and temporarily raise the cap to allow more spending (and not use the extra cash on roads).

Until voters and lawmakers decide to act, however, our institutions will continue to stave.

Let’s just hope Colorado doesn’t run out of people foolish enough to come here for a university education before then.

Editorials editor Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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