Higher education Darwinism

Jan 202010
Authors: Collegian Editorial Board

Today is the third and final day of the Collegian’s higher education crisis special report. But while the stories may fade, Colorado’s budget crisis will surely endure.

Despite reports that some sectors of the economy are recovering, it seems unlikely that looming fears of long-term unemployment and of a double dip recession will allow for a full recovery any time soon. And as the economy sputters along, the state’s higher education funding engine will continue to backfire.

But despite the apocalyptic predictions of Colorado’s want-to-be higher education prophets, the same funding issues that threaten to tear down the state’s existing university system, could sew the seeds for a healthier, more robust system.

A full reevaluation and revamp of the state’s funding model would be a best-case scenario for higher education and many other Colorado programs, but a constitutional convention carries its own extreme set of risks and the likelihood of such a drastic effort seems, at this point, minimal.

What the funding crisis will surely do, however, is force universities and colleges to reassess their management and spending priorities.

Like the seething, primordial soup that birthed the first multi-cellular organisms, the Darwinian nature of the current crisis will compel universities to evolve. They will have to trim inefficient budget lines (think bloated administrative budgets, wasteful athletic programs and noncompetitive academic programs) and develop innovative adaptations to survive in a hostile world.

Much like fish crawling onto land for the first time, the mutation of higher education systems will be slow and messy. Some schools will struggle to find their place and others could face extinction entirely.

Those that emerge will be stronger and better equipped to both handle future budgetary crises and educate the state’s population.

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