Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Colorado?

We have just updated our annual analysis of state fiscal investment effort in higher education. We now have 50 years worth of data for each state. We measure higher education investment effort as state fiscal support (largely appropriations) divided by state personal income (which we take to be the state’s tax base), and express the result as dollars for higher education per $1000 of personal income.

Measuring changes over the last 30 years—between FY1980 and FY2010—Colorado has reduced its state fiscal investment effort in higher education by (far) more than any other state: by 69.6 percent. Colorado has gone from $10.52 per $1000 in FY1980 to $3.20 per $1000 by FY2010. No other state can match this abysmal record of disinvestment in public higher education over the last three decades. Colorado has long been able to mask this destruction because so many college graduates educated elsewhere want to live in the state. But the real record is one of massive disservice to the state’s native population.

However, many national higher education organizations are headquartered in Colorado. In Boulder we find the national headquarters of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. In Denver we find the Education Commission of the States.

We wonder why these organizations continue to bless Colorado with their presence. What kind of message does this convey to the voters and elected officials of Colorado about what they have done to their state’s higher education system. Might it not be appropriate for these national organizations to announce to Colorado that they are considering leaving the state because of its destructive attitude toward the higher education industry that they represent? Undoubtedly this would be disruptive to the organizations now located there. But the message their continued presence in Colorado conveys is the wrong one.


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