Joint Budget Committee Remarks
Now is the time to recommit to and reinvest in higher education
Higher education is the engine that powers the American dream – and Colorado’s engine is running on fumes. On Tuesday, I asked our state’s Joint Budget Committee to recommit to that dream by closing the gap between Colorado and the rest of the nation in higher-education funding. Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in funding per college student. If not corrected now, this shortfall will only widen the gap in our homegrown talent pool and undermine our competitiveness as a state.
As I told the committee, there is no better way to catalyze social and economic mobility, fill the talent pipeline and ensure that our state competes nationally and globally than to invest in our public colleges and universities. Because of whom we serve and how, an investment in MSU Denver, in particular, has an even more dramatic impact on our state.
That’s because 96% of MSU Denver students come from Colorado. Each year, we graduate more than 3,200 Coloradans, most of whom stay here after graduation to contribute to our robust economy and civil society. Our University also serves the types of students the state says it wants to support – 76% have one or more of these characteristics: first-generation, Pell-eligible, veteran or student of color. Yet the formula that is used to determine how much funding each university receives does not align with the state’s purported goals to raise the education levels of these populations.
Sadly, MSU Denver has a high mountain to climb when it comes to catching up with our peers in Colorado, much less the nation. Despite being the third-largest university in the state and the most affordable in the Front Range, we remain the lowest funded. MSU Denver gets $6,750 less per student from the state than the highest funded Colorado university. We are very proud of how efficient and affordable we are, as we focus all of our resources directly on student success; but there are limits to doing more with less, and we have reached our limit.
I believe we are at a critical inflection point. If Colorado does not start to reinvest in public higher education, the state will suffer economically and civically. We simply cannot compete in an information-oriented, globalized economy, or thrive as a modern democracy, without a highly educated workforce and citizenry.
I am committed to working with our state leaders to close the gap in higher-education funding overall and to ensure that Colorado’s funding allocation is more equitable and aligned with the state’s goals. If we work together, I truly believe we can get ahead of this challenge. Each of us has a part to play in telling the story of how higher education advances the lives of students and the state of Colorado. Thank you for helping us share that story.
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
President, MSU Denver