Jan 182010
Authors: Josh Phillips

If you haven’t been keeping tabs on Colorado’s budget these past few months, perhaps due to a predisposition to apathy, you’ll be surprised to hear that our local government has found itself in somewhat of a quandary.
But if you have kept tabs on our government for the past few decades, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a financial quandary.

This time, the only difference is that it directly affects you and me as paying students at a publicly funded university. Or perhaps it directly affects your parents, depending your level of indifference regarding matters unrelated to coursework, beer or the opposite sex.

On the surface, the issue appears to be a clear-cut case of misappropriation of funds and typical governmental irresponsibility, but the issue cuts deeper than that. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) places a limit on how far state revenues can be increased based on population and inflation. These revenues are typically raised by increasing taxes.

The power in raising taxes lies solely with Colorado’s populace, which has passed several referendums to raise taxes. But voters haven’t mandated (as they have for K-12 spending) that funding for higher education grow with inflation, thus forcing the axe to fall on our precious universities and community colleges.

The entire situation reveals irresponsibility on numerous fronts. First, we are at fault as taxpayers and citizens for refusing to pay attention and holding our local government accountable for its abuse of our generosity.
Second, Colorado lawmakers are at fault for assuming that the dollar amount in our pockets is as lofty as the number of tacky Chuck Norris jokes.

Third, private and public employers are both at fault over the last few decades for placing excessive value on higher education. We have operated on the assumption that attending university is a necessity for so long that anybody who decides not to pursue a Bachelor’s degree (or higher) is vilified and considered devoid of ambition.

At some point in the past, employers began requiring prospective employees to hold a Bachelor’s degree, even if the job didn’t actually require it. This was primarily based on the assumption that somebody with a degree would perform more aptly than somebody without.

This led to students attending college who normally would not have. More students at a university means more required funding.

Fourth, our federal government is to blame for interfering with states’ rights to govern education as they see fit. Since the inception of the Department of Education in 1976, our government has misused trillions of dollars in the name of children, but has seen minimal positive results. In fact, the value of our high school education has noticeably declined since then.

It is no wonder that parents, students and employers operate on the basic (yet false) assumption that a secondary education is a vital necessity. Add our insistence that secondary education is a basic right into the mix and we have ourselves a recipe for financial disaster.

Fifth, universities are to blame due to their spending fervor. Our campus has expanded at a rate tantamount to the population in China, needlessly erecting buildings on almost every pitch of grass between Shields and College.
If we were serious about saving money, we would not have wasted $13 million on an indoor practice facility when a perfectly good field sits just south of Moby Arena. We would not have spent $7 million on a new training center. We would have cut the Board of Governors’ salary and used the excess to maintain the university.

The difficulty in tilting the balance in the favor of higher education rests on finding compromise within a plethora of complicated decisions spanning numerous ideologies.

Do we view higher education as a right, or as a precious commodity that must be paid for out of pocket? Can we overcome the assumption that no individual can succeed without a secondary education, despite his or her possibly lackluster career choices?

It is my hope that you, as a current student, understand the implications of the current dilemma. Your coffers will continue to determine the value we place on higher education long after you’ve graduated.

Josh Phillips is a senior business administration major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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