Recently Tony Frank, the president of Colorado State University, sent off a mass email to students and faculty. In it he described the necessity to increase student tuition prices. He made sure to point out the pay increase freezes that are campus wide, the $23 million loss of funding from the state of Colorado, and how the students at CU Boulder are paying much more than we will be next year. Most of all his email made sure we were all aware of the 20% hike in tuition that will be coming next semester. This, Tony, is my response.
We are paying too much! We do not have the income nor the time to produce the income level required to go to school here. Not only are we paying too much for tuition we are paying too much for books and other student fees. We cannot sit idly by and wait for our pocketbooks to run dry and our savings to turn to dust. The economy is failing and yet the college demands we pay more. Tony Frank made sure we understood our place in his latest email to the entire campus. In it he declared that prices will be going up another 20% this fall. Enough is enough we need to put an end to this!
In case you were all riled up from that last paragraph I want to apologize. This is not where I stand anymore nor is it where anyone else should. We are not paying too much and it is with a heavy heart that I now must explain why.
I want to start with the issue that most people avoid looking at when they decide whether they are paying too much for school. That issue is the facts. Okay maybe most people don’t ignore them, but when I started this, I was ignoring them; so I’m going to hit you with them cold and hard. Tuition at Colorado State University is low. It’s really low. The cost of in state attendance here is $6,986 per student for tuition and fees where as the national in state cost is on average $7,605 (Trends, 3). The price difference is over $600 a year. That’s $2,400 per student per bachelor’s degree at CSU. With 23,000 students at Colorado State that means the college is missing out on more than$13,800,000 that the average university this size would pick up.
The way Colorado State has decided to deal with this is by charging out of state students an astronomically high sum of money to go to school here. Nationally the average out of state student pays $19,595 where as the average out of state student at Colorado State will pay upwards of $23,000 a year. While this is picking up some of the thirteen million dollar slack; it only comes from the ten percent or so out of state students going here. A little bit of quick math and we come to out of state students picking up about seven million of that almost fourteen million deficit. Now I’m not saying this is the actual school deficit. It most certainly is not. What I am saying is the average college of this size in the United States is pulling in at least seven million more dollars a year than CSU from tuition.
Well there are the cold hard facts. We are paying less for an education than the rest of the nation. Yay! I like paying less. We can’t keep paying so little for our education though. It isn’t economically possible for a school this size, even a terrible school, to keep running on so little money. By terrible school I mean the kind of school that this video talks about http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=119>. Colorado State University isn’t a terrible school though. This is a great school, and as a great school, it is costing a lot more to keep it running every day.
It is actually surprising that we have been able to keep going this long. We are not the average college in America, we are a great college. This university is renowned for its programs, its athletics, and even its engineers. Most of all this school is renowned for its veterinarians. This is one of the worlds best veterinarian colleges. Don’t take my word for it though. BusinessWeek listed Colorado State as having one of the top undergraduate business programs in the country. Forbes rated Colorado State as one of 2010’s best colleges in the nation. The Princeton Review listed Colorado State as the 69th best University in the Nation for 2010. The praise goes on and on, U.S News and World Report, Poets and Writers Magazine, and even the Peace Corps are all talking about CSU. We don’t have good teachers here. We have great ones. It is an absolute feat of genius that this school has been able to stay afloat on the meager tuition it receives now. To be frank our professors deserve better than being told day in and day out, we pay too much. We pay their salary. By telling them this we are telling them they don’t deserve the pay they already receive, and that’s not true. Aside from all the praise, we are having some serious money problems.
Colorado State University isn’t alone in its money problems though. We are in a recession and money is tight everywhere. It has become so bad now for government officials in charge of the state budget; that education seems to be the only place available to make cuts. Governor Ritter made a statement in November outlining this problem. In his statement he stated that Colorado has a $262 million budget shortfall. The state apparently hopes to fix this by using $156 million of K-12 education funds (Education Cuts). He also stated that Colorado has trimmed $4.5 billion in the past 3 years and will need to cut more than another billion by years end.
Colorado didn’t stop with K-12 education funding cuts though. Lawmakers went though all education funding trying to find additional money for the state. Recently there has even been a push to violate Indian treaties to find more money. It’s not a particularly new way of thinking, since violating treaties with native peoples has always been standard policy in the United States, but this one is different. A treaty formed in 1911 guaranteed all Native Americans in Colorado a free college education. Lawmakers are now attempting to tap that funding and take away $1.8 million a year from funds allocated to Native American students attending Fort Lewis College in Durango. This is a major problem for Fort Lewis College because they are already facing a 31 percent budget cut over the next two years.
If the money is draining out and nobody wants to increase taxes we have one last question I’m sure everyone is wondering by now. Is there any way we can change how the money is being spent; so we don’t need so many cuts? In 2004 the Colorado Legislature was seriously concerned with this as well because Colorado fell to last place nationally in total educational revenue to public institutions (Prescott, 21). This is when the Colorado Legislature decided to create an entirely new way of managing education funds called the COF or College Opportunity Fund. The COF changed how colleges receive money from the state, and allowed for greater control by the legislature and less by the tax payers. The intent being that the legislature could protect education funds more easily this way. In 2009 the legislature chose to reduce the value of the COF by more than 25 percent (Prescott, 26). The College Opportunity Fund has only served to divert more money from education.
What does this leave us with? Well first and foremost this is a wonderful college. It is one of the best in the entire nation and we are incredibly lucky that we are only facing a tuition increase of 20 percent. Second, we are not alone in facing financial difficulty. Other schools like Fort Lewis College and even the Colorado legislature are facing massive cuts. Finally, we have that the State has tried things other than just cutting funding to fix budget issues. In the case of the COF we became worse off than we would have been had we not tried anything but at least the legislature is trying something. It’s too bad we have to see a tuition increase, but at this point, there are no other options.