In his annual Presidential Fall Address on Thursday, Colorado State University President Tony Frank told the University community to anticipate, within the next decade, a future without public funding for higher education.
Colorado headed for privatizing higher education
The situation may improve, Frank said, but either way, CSU has begun planning for a future of “defunding” or privatizing higher education — even as the University celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act that created land-grant institutions.
“Unless there are fundamental changes to the way in which we as Coloradans manage the resources we entrust to each other in this place we call home, there will be no funding for public higher education — not on some far off day, not after we’re all comfortably retired, not at a time to warn our children to look out for, but in the next 7-10 years — on our watch,” Frank said.
He referenced a report from the Center for Colorado’s Economic Future that anticipates a gap of $3.34 billion between the state’s General Fund revenues and expenditures by FY2024-25.
Planning must start today
Frank said he hopes the funding situation doesn’t come to that point, and he has confidence in state leaders who are working on the challenge. Still, he said, preparing the University for defunding is essential to preserve the University’s quality and affordability — and planning has to start today. If defunding doesn’t then occur, CSU will still be a stronger institution that is well-positioned for keeping tuition low and investing in faculty and staff and resources while maintaining academic excellence.
- Growing non-resident student enrollment;
- Maintaining CSU’s position as the school of choice within Colorado; and
- Pushing for excellence in every aspect of the University’s mission.
“If our efforts to stabilize funding for Colorado public higher education succeed, we can see an unprecedented growth of quality at Colorado State — improving ourselves in nearly every parameter and metric of academic excellence,” Frank said.
Strides already made in cutting costs
The University has already made significant strides in cutting costs, he said, urging the campus community to be proud its stewardship of the institution.
“We’ve cut our expenses dramatically, taken financial transparency and accountability to new levels, endorsed performance-based funding, and we’re proud that we educate a student for the same amount today (inflation adjusted) that we did 20 years ago,” he said.
Twenty years ago, tuition covered one-third of the cost of higher education; now students must cover closer to 75 percent of the cost, Frank said.
Additional highlights from Frank’s speech
- A freshman class that is the largest and among the most diverse in CSU’s history, breaking a record set only last year — the fourth year in a row of record enrollment.
- While this year’s class is also among the most academically qualified in CSU’s history, one in four are still the first in their family ever to pursue a college education.
- Completion of the first major fundraising campaign in University history — reaching the goal ahead of time and then exceeding it by almost $40 million.
- CSU had another year of record research funding, continuing to be home to one of the most productive research faculties anywhere in the country.