To Ensure Economic Vitality, State Must Finance Investment Required to Teach Science and Technology, Colorado State President Says

Note to Editors: The full white paper is available at

Colorado must find innovative ways of addressing the higher costs of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics or face losing its competitive edge and jobs to other states, said Larry Edward Penley, chancellor of the Colorado State University System, in a white paper released today.

Penley proposes the state closely examine its spending on these fields since they are most directly linked to economic innovation, progress and vitality.

"Colorado’s major universities cannot continue to teach the workforce of tomorrow without a major financial investment today," Penley said. "The future economic viability of the state is at stake."

Colorado State alone provides 30 percent of all student credit hours taken in science and technology disciplines in Colorado – more than any other university in the state. Yet, like all other universities and colleges in the state, it still faces major budget shortfalls – even after the passage of Referendum C, an amendment to the state constitution that provides some funding relief.

"Under this scenario, Colorado State University will lose serious ground in its ability to remain competitive with peer institutions in terms of academic quality, faculty retention and student scholarships," Penley states in the paper.

While the state emphasizes jobs in critical science and technology industries, it has not recognized the higher costs of teaching courses in those fields, Penley said. A credit hour in engineering, for example, requires higher faculty salaries and more expensive laboratories and equipment than a credit hour in humanities. The cost of providing graduate education, a key responsibility of the state’s research universities, is also higher than the cost of undergraduate education.

Meanwhile, Colorado is losing ground in terms of new job creation in those science- and technology related industries: The state lost 30 percent of its information-technology jobs between 2001 and 2005, putting it nearly last in wage growth.

In the paper, Penley suggests examining multiple alternatives for funding including:

-Formula funding: He points to funding models used in other states in which student credit hours are funded based on the cost of providing the course.

-Research and development funding pools: Penley is recommending the state consider an annually replenished fund of $10 million in matching funds that would allow the state’s universities to compete more effectively for grants, similar to programs adopted in Kansas and Massachusetts.

-Alternative tuition models: A number of states and universities have experimented with innovative tuition models that include a mix of publicly supported and privately endowed units within the same university structure or even a flat tuition rate for all students.

"Colorado has an opportunity to shape the direction of future economic growth and encourage high-quality job creation by investing in those academic disciplines most directly tied to economic prosperity in a knowledge economy," Penley stated. "Such investments will encourage a larger labor pool and workforce in critically competitive jobs."