Student government voted to join a statewide effort to synchronize grassroots demonstrations at universities to stress how the grim fiscal status of Colorado’s higher education system is making college degrees increasingly inaccessible at its Senate meeting Wednesday night.
The effort, which organizer Matt Worthington called a “Higher Education Posse,” comes at a time when Colorado legislators are wringing their hands over how to fund state programs that are not mandated to grow, including higher education.
“You can teach an entire course about Colorado’s budget woes,” Worthington said in an interview before the discussion Wednesday.
Students have gathered at the state Capitol for the last several years to offer personal anecdotes and request lawmakers’ attention for the problem, but Worthington, the director of Legislative Affairs for the Associated Students of CSU, said this would be the first stab at local organizing behind the cause.
“There’s never been a way to organize students effectively” on a local level, he said.
Institutions of higher education across the state are participating in the effort under the umbrella of the state’s largest student organization, the Associated Students of Colorado.
“If we can do this in concert with the other colleges in Colorado,” Worthington told the Senate, “â€¦ it’s gonna be a really powerful movement.”
Worthington said if nothing is done to establish a solid funding stream for higher education, it’s uncertain how long it will last as state lawmakers and higher education officials have been bracing for the worst — which could include a privatization of the state’s largest schools.
In addition, smaller schools, including Adams State and Mesa State colleges and some of Colorado’s 13 community colleges, could face extinction.
CSU President Tony Frank has said over the course of the last year, in meetings with communities across the state, that voters must be aware of the problem, which stems from a long line of conflicting fiscal policy, before the higher education system here becomes unrecognizable.
He said if nothing is done, CSU would have to downsize and possibly privatize.
“You’d be a smaller institution that doesn’t have as much quality, and prices would increase,” he said before the semester started. “â€¦ Paying more and getting less is not a good business model.”
Worthington said the demonstrations for the plan will be peaceful, and students will seek community audiences in an attempt to convince Colorado’s broad voting community that the higher education system in the state is essential to its economic and cultural identity.
“It’s really an invitation instead of a rally,” he said.
Organizers will search for participation from all students, not only those in leadership positions, Worthington said, emphasizing the importance of cohesive support.
“We’re looking for anyone in general,” he said.