Student government officials stressed Wednesday night that, in light of Colorado’s dismal funding scheme that pits the higher education system against possibly crippling budget cuts, students must unify behind measures that could fix the problem.
At its Senate meeting, the Associated Students of CSU introduced legislation that would recommend that the Associated Students of Colorado, a statewide university student organization, take a stance on the higher education budget crisis –/a proposal that comes just two days before Gov. Bill Ritter releases the state budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
Director of Legislative Affairs Matt Worthington, who drafted the proposal, said no one has yet compiled a list of possible platform issues.
Former ASC President and former ASCSU Chief of Staff Blake Gibson said that, while ASCSU’s resolution is a step in the right direction, decisions about the FY10 higher education budget have already been made.
“This is reactive. It’s not a proactive measure; it’s affects are limited,” Gibson said.
The real point of the document is to focus the ASC, Worthington said, and promote open discussion of the issues surrounding higher education.
“I think there’s a lot of potential for the ASC to be powerful in this discussion,” he said.
Higher education affordability has always been a primary goal of the organization, Gibson said, and since the governor started making budget cuts, the ASC hasn’t been able to agree on a solution to the problem.
ASCSU President Dan Gearhart said all of Colorado’s schools need to be involved in talks about higher education and ways to cushion the cuts it is facing.
“It can’t just be CU-Boulder, CSU, Metro State and CSU-Pueblo talking,” Gearhart said.
Gibson said university student governments can either do everything on their own or can collaborate on the issue to form a unified voice that suggests options to state officials.
“Just because certain institutions are safe-havens one year, it does not mean they cannot be crisis points another year,” Gibson said.
He said the organization needs to build a consensus of what affordability means to students and find a way to achieve the ideal “fair tuition,” and the ASC has looked at model states like Arizona where a one-cent tax increase, with all proceeds going to higher education, was implemented.
“We need to answer the question: Do the students of Colorado want public higher education or are they OK with privatization?” Gibson said.
“There’s no question that students and their families are the strongest voice in higher education reform.”
Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.