Colorado ranks low for school funding
Tuition increases as education quality decreases
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 21:11
The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation released this year’s edition of Toward a More Competitive Colorado on Oct. 24. The publication is “an annual benchmark report of Colorado’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities for future job growth and economic expansion,” according to the organization’s website.
Although Colorado ranked as the country’s third most highly educated state, with some of the highest ACT and SAT scores in the nation, Colorado was also ranked fourth lowest in the nation for K–12 resources, and 20th lowest for K–12 expenditures per student. Colorado’s higher education funding rankings are even worse, with the state ranking third lowest in state and local support for full-time students, second lowest in state and local support per capita. Colorado also has a declining number of high school graduates entering college.
Colorado reduced higher education funding by $5.8 million between this year and last, and funding has decreased by 27 percent since 2009. According to the Metro Denver EDC, Colorado universities and colleges still have competitive in-state tuition, but tuition costs continue to rise as an offset to declining state support.
As education funding has been cut, the state has given universities permission to increase tuition without legislative approval. Students see the impact of what the Metro Denver EDC talks about first-hand, with CU Denver having increased tuition 0.8 percent for the current academic year.
Although UCD’s increase affects students, it is significantly lower than tuition hikes made by other Colorado schools. CU Boulder’s tuition is 5 percent higher this year than last year, an increase still much lower than the 15.7 percent originally proposed by the regents.
Although UCD has, as of yet, increased tuition less than other Colorado schools, this means that the school simply has less money, resulting in cuts to programs, scholarships, and support for student organizations. State funding per student at UCD peaked in 2001 at $7,063, and is now at a low of $2,839 per student, a 61 percent decrease.
Students face problems with cuts to programs. “Business and psychology are really encouraged fields for people to get educated in, instead of the sciences, the arts, construction, architecture, and all of the other things that are necessary for society,” said environmental science major Adrielle Powers.
As tuition increases and funding decreases, fewer students are continuing into higher education after high school, something that could also be related to declining K–12 funding.
Since Colorado’s public education funding comes primarily from property taxes, schools in poorer areas have less funding. In response, the state has placed improvement deadlines on failing schools, with threats of state-takeover and even more funding reductions for schools that don’t meet deadlines.
Chancellor Donald Elliman summed up the funding situation for UCD, and for Colorado as a whole, in his State of the University speech on Oct. 22. “We are underfunded no matter how you look at it,” he said. “Compared to our peer institutions, compared to other institutions in this state, compared to ourselves even five years ago.”