Colorado must identify a long-term stable source of funding for higher education and work with the public to secure approval for that funding, Colorado State University Chancellor Larry Edward Penley said today.
With additional funding for higher education, Colorado must also do a better job of tracking the real funding needs of its colleges and universities, graduating qualified working-class students and setting benchmarks for accountability, he said.
Penley’s comments followed the release of a proposal that identifies four key steps state leaders need to take to address chronic underfunding of Colorado’s state colleges and universities. A recent study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) identified an $832 million shortfall for higher education in the state. The full Colorado State University proposal is available online at http://www.president.colostate.edu/pdf/fulfilling_colorado_promise.pdf.
"As a leader in Colorado higher education, the Colorado State University System recognizes that the state faces considerable funding challenges and difficult decisions in balancing many important public needs," Penley said. "But the state’s future depends on its ability to link funding for higher education with its goals for a highly skilled workforce and economic prosperity.
"Colorado State is committed to working with the Governor, the Legislature, the statewide business community, and Colorado residents to move this agenda forward."
First, Penley said, the state must reach agreement and gain public approval on a stable source of funds that will ensure the long-term health of Colorado higher education and other state infrastructure needs such as K-12 and transportation.
Then, to distribute those funds, state leaders must more accurately determine funding needs of its institutions by looking at their missions, program costs and peer funding levels. The NCHEMS study revealed some Colorado institutions are disproportionately underfunded relative to peers. Research universities account for $520 million – more than 60 percent – of this underfunding.
To address that issue, Colorado State has created a new online tool at http://www.president.colostate.edu/index.asp?page=funding that allows lawmakers to assess, by institution, what mix of state and/or tuition funding is needed to reach peer average. The tool can be used to see how different percentage tuition increases can help offset state funds in addressing the $832 million shortfall – and to review exactly what each college and university requires in comparison to peers on an annual basis and over time.
In other recommendations in Penley’s plan, he said the state should:
-Assure educational access for qualified low-income, working-class and first-generation students by covering the educational costs of Pell Grant recipients (an additional $10 million for Colorado State’s Fort Collins campus alone). A Pell Grant, awarded to students with financial need, today covers slightly more than one-third of the average cost of a public university.
-Challenge colleges and universities to continue to be more accountable and to set benchmarks to measure student learning and success.
The funding plan follows considerable discussion in recent weeks about the need for a new funding model for higher education and the public release of Penley’s white paper outlining the importance of linking the state’s economic goals with the strengths of its colleges and universities. Penley and eight other leading higher-education officials in the state co-signed a statement in The Denver Post Jan. 7 that reflected their philosophical consensus on the need for fundamental change in the system used to fund Colorado higher education.
In his "State of the State" address, Jan. 11, Gov. Bill Ritter highlighted the importance of educational access and the need to align economic development strategies with the state’s educational offerings.
"As the state works to encourage job growth and attract key industries, it must determine how to more effectively invest in the educational mechanisms essential to supporting those goals," Penley said. "The economic future of Colorado depends on it."