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A Call for Reform of Colorado Higher Education

January 17, 2011

An Open Letter to All Coloradans

Citizens of Colorado can gain advantage for their college age children, and advance the public interest, by calling for higher education reform—without raising taxes for higher education.

1) Are Colorado state colleges and universities ‘safe harbors’ from the laws of Colorado?
The high incidence of alcohol related arrests, substance abuse and public drunkenness on Colorado state colleges and universities, is a serious problem.  Frequent alcohol-related deaths on college campuses and drunken rioting by college students have reached the attention of the general public.  Have Colorado state colleges and universities become ‘safe harbors’ from the law?

2) The Cost of Colorado Higher Education.
Education leaders argue that tuition levels at Colorado community colleges, colleges, and universities are low relative to the true cost of a college education.  Yet, there is no published information about the actual costs of operating Colorado state colleges and universities versus the cost of tuition.  Release the information to the public!

3) Calls for Greater Expenditures on Higher Education Should Cease!
No state college or university president worth his salt can allow a year to expire without a call for more state subsidies.  Because all colleges and universities today operate on a broken 19th century business model, the cost of operating Colorado state colleges and universities will increase not decrease.  Drag Colorado higher education into the 21st Century!

4) Should Regents and Trustees Go to School?
It is generally understood that those chosen to regulate government agencies and programs quickly become spokesmen of those entities.  In the case of Colorado Regents and Trustees, the only source of information they are given comes from those they are supposed to govern. Coloradans should compel Regents and Trustees of Colorado state universities to go to “school” to study issues concerning higher education governance.

5) If Not Regents and Trustees, Then Who?
If Regents or Trustees cannot, or are unable to, act decisively to impose fundamental reforms (the absence of Core Curriculum is an example) then who might be able to act? Coloradans should call for the Executive Director of CCHE to be authorized to exercise emergency powers under carefully defined conditions.

6) Academic Tenure and College Governance
Under current policies generally accepted in higher education, Faculty is granted tenure after seven years of teaching, with a decision taken at the conclusion of the sixth year.  The Ward Churchill scandal at CU suggests that another look at academic tenure is much needed.  Coloradans should examine a two track policy: tenure at substantially lower salary, or non-tenured contracts at higher salaries.

7) Should Colorado be in the Education Business?
What is the purpose of state supported higher education in Colorado? When last did Coloradans engage in a discussion of the purpose of our state colleges and universities? The compelling reason for having state colleges and universities is the need for access to higher education at low cost. Due to increases in tuition costs at Colorado state colleges and universities, however, Colorado’s middle class is driven to state subsidized community colleges. What is “public” about an institution, if annual tuition, room and board costs and fees exceed $20,000.

8 ) A Standardized Core Curriculum
An examination of the “core curriculum” at CU-Boulder, taking just one state institution as an example, symbolizes the problem.  Coloradans should call for a standardized Core Curriculum required of every student earning a baccalaureate degree from a state college or university in Colorado.  A public discussion should be conducted that asks what disciplines and courses should be required.  In a state whose natural beauty is unparalleled, should a course in the state’s geology be required of every college students?  What about the history of Colorado and its state government?  And, of course, how about the history of the United States, American government and the Constitution?  And what about the system of free enterprise and free markets that has enabled the United States to become a global powerhouse? The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has published a report that indicates that in the area of required studies in foreign languages, American history, economics and literature, Colorado public colleges and universities receive failing grades.

9) The Privatization Option
Who’s serving whom?  At CU undergraduate students service the research Faculty of the University’s graduate schools.  Shouldn’t that relationship be the reverse?  Why not spin off the Graduate Division of CU, allow it to be governed by its own governing Board, and operated on income that its various departments generate.  The University of Colorado would then focus exclusively on undergraduate education.  In Oregon the president of the University of Oregon has called for something close to that!

You are cordially invited to comment on this Call for Reform:

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