Speaking at the annual policy meeting of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) on Aug. 9, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized states for their higher education cuts, saying they were undermining their economic futures by being "penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
Since the global recession hit, he said, most states have slashed their per-student higher education spending. "Disinvestment is not the strategy that other countries are choosing," he said, contrasting the United States' approach to that of China and Singapore. According to the SHEEO, Colorado ranked 49th in the nation in 2011 for state and local support for higher education operating expenses per capita.
To fill gaps left by the states, institutions have been forced to raise tuition, strapping middle-class families especially with higher college costs. While MSU Denver continues to offer the lowest tuition among Colorado’s five largest institutions, the University has been compelled to raise tuition by almost 23 percent in 2011-12 and again by another 13 percent for this coming academic year. The increases are in keeping with the University’s Financial Accountability Plan of 2010.
"Higher education should not be a luxury for those who can afford it," Duncan said.
While states grapple with how to balance budgets without mortgaging their higher education infrastructures, they are also responding to increased pressure to boost graduation rates, according to another speaker at the SHEEO meeting, Jamie P. Merisotis. He is president of the Lumina Foundation for Education, an organization that works to boost students’ access to higher education and degree completion.
"States really are where the action is," Merisotis said, adding that more than two-thirds of states have set goals for improving graduation rates.
He also indicated a need for changes in how credits are awarded, saying colleges and universities need to grant credit for job experience and other forms of nontraditional learning. "We need stackable credentials that give students credit for learning, no matter where it comes from," he said.
This year, Colorado’s legislature passed HB 12-1072, which requires state colleges and universities to adopt policies for awarding credit for prior learning (MSU Denver has long had a Credit for Prior Learning program), and SB 12-045, which should make it easier for students with hours from both community and four-year colleges, who leave without degrees, to aggregate credits to qualify for an associate’s degree.
Top of Page