Participating in a panel discussion last week at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., entitled, “Funding Public Higher Education Post-Stimulus,” President Stephen Jordan explained how stimulus funds have both helped and hindered institutions such as Metro State.
Joining fellow panelists Nick Johnson, vice president for State Fiscal Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Paul Lingenfelter, president of State Higher Education Executive Officers and moderator Jennifer Cohen, a senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation, Jordan outlined Colorado’s higher education funding reality in the aftermath of the stimulus.
The Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 provided approximately $8.3 billion over three years to higher education nationwide. According to a presentation by Cohen of the New America Foundation, Colorado lowered state spending on higher education to below 2006 levels in 2010, using the bulk of its State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to backfill those cuts. By 2011, there wasn’t enough left to fill the gaps.
At Metro State, rather than use monies for day-to-day expenses, Jordan explained the College invested stimulus dollars in developing sustainable programs and new infrastructure, including revenue-generating programs such as the College’s new graduate offerings, the Rightsizing with Technology initiative to streamline processes for students and staff, and the Capstone projects, completed by retiring professors to leave a lasting legacy at Metro State.
Nonetheless, Metro State—which has seen its enrollment grow from 21,010 in 2005-06 to 23,678 in the fall of 2011, while other Colorado institutions have seen their enrollments drop—has had to bear disproportionate decreases in public funding per-student because of the budget cuts. This affects the services the College can provide its predominately low-income student population.
“The very institutions where we ought to be making investments to achieve our stated public goals, we’re actually disadvantaging them compared to research universities,” Jordan said.
Jordan pointed out that he would have preferred the federal government, in targeting ARRA funds, stipulate certain levels of support per student.
“We continue to have conversations with the state around funding,” he said.
Editor's note: According to The Denver Post, the Joint Budget Committee is expected to vote soon on the state’s appropriations for higher education funding for 2012-13.
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