CSU president wants to discuss state funding

Colorado State University President Tony Frank wants to have a conversation about higher education funding in Colorado.

Frank said in a meeting Wednesday with The Daily Sentinel’s editorial board higher education doesn’t cost more to provide than it did two decades ago when adjusted for inflation. In-state tuition at the Fort Collins institution will increase 9 percent year-over-year to $6,874 this fall, not because schools are spending erratically or because of any increase in the cost of instruction, Frank said.

Instead, according to Frank, tuition increases can be blamed on the state covering a third of the cost of higher education at Colorado’s public colleges and universities. Twenty years ago, the state covered 70 percent of that cost.

Frank said the inversion of state versus tuition revenue may escalate as other mandated costs, such as health coverage and K-12 schools, take over the state budget and may leave Colorado’s public institutions of higher education to operate without state funding as soon as 2020, by his estimate. Frank is telling people on his annual summer tour of the state that he wants legislators and education officials such as himself to discuss that possibility before it has a chance to become a reality.

“I don’t want to get to 2020 or 2025 and never have that conversation,” he said.

Frank said Colorado State’s monetary situation is not dire. The school’s first major fundraising campaign surpassed a goal of $500 million and donations are still being collected. The school still received $94 million in state funding during the 2011-12 school year and reached an enrollment record of 26,735 on-campus students last fall. Still, Frank wants to talk about the future.

“As good as things are, I don’t want to be the first president of a land grant university in the history of land grant universities to find out what it’s like to operate without state funding,” he said.

Land grant universities were established around the United States 150 years ago to give states affordable institutions focused on practical majors. Frank said he doesn’t want to abandon the mission of land grant universities and encourage the school to turn away Colorado residents, but he does want to increase the school’s out-of-state enrollment. Non-resident students pay more in tuition than in-state students. About 80 percent of current CSU students come from inside the state, according to Frank.


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