The old college try

Funding public colleges and universities is difficult enough in good economic times. It’s extra tough in the current crisis. So it’s not surprising that officials are looking in new directions for funding.

One group of university leaders wants a federal government bailout, to the tune of $45 billion.

On the other side of the spectrum is a Colorado lawmaker who wants to see this state’s top four universities become private.

Frankly, we’re opposed to both ideas. We don’t think they do much for taxpayers or people seeking a college education.

The bailout idea was pitched this week in a two-page ad in The New York Times, paid for by the Carnegie Corp. It was signed by leaders of 36 universities around the country, including Bud Peterson, chancellor of the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus.

The money would be for capital projects that are ready to go right now. And the university leaders want the money to go to their governors, then directly to them, without any oversight by state legislators who normally oversee higher-ed budgets.

We hope Congress rejects this plan. First, we don’t believe it will be an economic stimulus.

New buildings on college campuses aren’t as critical to our economy as functional roads and bridges.

Second, state lawmakers should still have a say in how money is spent on public college campuses in their jurisdictions.

That is, unless those public institutions go private. And that’s exactly what Rep. Don Marostica, R-Fort Collins, thinks should happen with CU, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Northern Colorado. He believes they could operate more efficiently if they were private. Coincidentally, that would also free up more money for
lawmakers to spend on other pet projects during tough economic times.

But having the state’s leading universities go private is a bad idea. It will make it far more costly for in-state students to attend places like CU, and it will send a message throughout the country that Colorado doesn’t really care about higher education.

Tough economic times demand that lawmakers and college leaders make difficult decisions on what can be pared down in budgets, not simply ask for federal handouts or throw higher education overboard.


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