Sep 102007
 
Authors: Daniel GibsonReinemer

Never base your political ideology on one of Homer Simpson’s worst ideas.

“Can’t someone else do it?” was the rallying cry he used in a campaign for sanitation commissioner (“Trash of the Titans,” from season nine). Short-sighted, na’ve and lazy, Homer wanted world-class garbage service without having to pay for it.

His solution of having “someone else” take care of sanitation in Springfield meant a small army of workers cleaning around the clock. But it also assumed “someone else” would foot the bill; the citizens of Springfield loved the service but failed to consider the cost.

Unfortunately, many Coloradoans seem to be following in Homer’s path when it comes to higher education.

We expect excellence from our colleges and universities, but excellence comes at a price. Rather than pay for the services we want, we ask, “Can’t someone else do it?”

Students paying tuition want to minimize their cost, shifting the burden to the state.

Thanks to restrictions on the state budget imposed by voters, Colorado must limit spending on higher education. Our universities get the short end of both sticks.

Inevitably, Homer’s management of public resources led to disaster.

The money for services soon ran dry, and Springfield began taking trash from other cities to make up the difference. The city was quickly so inundated with trash they had to move the whole town down the road.

There are parallels in Colorado’s situation.

Our state universities are deprived of the resources they need to attract and maintain top professors and their labs. Consequently, Colorado is losing talented professors, weakening our state schools. Just like Springfield residents, the talent, research money, and the jobs that follow are leaving town.

D’oh!

We need to change the way we invest in higher education. This means compromises from students and the voting public.

Consider a comparison to personal finances: when faced with a tight budget, individuals must adapt and be thrifty, cutting costs and increasing efficiency. This is a step in the right direction.

However, higher education is like an individual’s retirement savings in this comparison. The more money we put into an IRA, the greater the dividends later. When we decrease the amount invested, we decrease our future returns.

The state budget is currently limited to annual increases of 6 percent, but expenditures in areas like transportation and K-12 education restrict increases in higher education. At a time when we need to increase our investment in our universities to keep them competitive, we shortchange them instead.

Current limits to the state budget are arbitrary and prevent the state from investing in its own future. Higher education truly is an investment – the money put in attracts research funding, brings businesses to Colorado, and creates graduates whose salaries form a solid tax base.

Taxpayers need to accept responsibility for funding part of the higher education budget, even if it means increases beyond some fixed point.

Students must accept responsibility for their own futures and invest in them, even if it means tuition increases.

This year, many students at CSU accepted the necessity of a tuition hike, suggesting we’re off to a good start.

Fiscal responsibility does not translate into arbitrary limits. Like any good business or sage investor, we should focus on adapting to changing conditions and putting money where it will do the most good.

We share the benefits of a prosperous state economy, and we should share the burden of creating it.

As Homer demonstrated, we can never rely on “someone else” to solve problems – we should fix them ourselves.

Daniel Gibson-Reinemer is a fishery and wildlife biology graduate student. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com

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