Colorado has long been an attractive place for both families and businesses to locate. The abundance of outdoor activities, spectacular scenery and wonderful weather, combined with a well-educated populace, have made this a desirable state.
But a report released this week by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. should be a warning to policy-makers across the state: We’re losing our competitive edge, especially with respect to higher education.
The state’s landscape and outdoor sports continue to attract new residents, the report says. However, the report shows that Colorado has been importing from other states much of its higher-educated population. That is an unsustainable path as other nearby states, from Texas to Utah, are also growing as rapidly and are more competitive by many measures.
To make Colorado competitive, the metro group argues for changes in the state Constitution to free up more money for higher education and infrastructure such as highways. That won’t thrill some residents of this state, who believe any proposed change to the state’s TABOR Amendment is akin to heresy. But many responsible groups across Colorado have been arguing for years that some alterations in that and conflicting constitutional amendments — without eliminating them entirely — are required to keep the state moving forward.
Moving forward in the 21st century will require a highly educated workforce. But Colorado has been systematically defunding its public higher education through much of this decade. The state now ranks 47th among the 50 states in state higher education funding per pupil. We must reverse that if we want Colorado to remain competitive in economic prosperity and job creation.