University leaders give their warnings

With shortfalls, students being priced out of degree, they say

Top higher education officials on Friday said drastic cuts in public funding have left the state’s institutions with dire shortfalls – and students paying far more in tuition.

Colorado State University President Tony Frank, who met with The Durango Herald editorial board as part of a statewide tour, said he is concerned that higher education is on its way to privatization.

“I’m afraid we’re going to hit 2025 and have privatized higher education without ever having the conversation,” he said.

Fort Lewis College President Dene Kay Thomas agreed and expressed concern that the public does not seem to have an awareness or concern for higher education.

Newly appointed Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger asked the higher education officials what programs their schools have in place for dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college courses for credit.

Both Thomas and Frank said community colleges have had more success with dual enrollment because they have been able to offer the classes at a lower price than FLC or CSU.

Part of the goal of dual enrollment is to prepare students for college-level work, and it can give the students a head start on their degree to potentially decrease the debt they may incur.

Thomas said some students will not go to college because they don’t want to take the risk of coming out in debt.

While the lack of funding has forced universities to make hard budget decisions and forced students to pay more out of pocket, it has also forced the schools to look at students as customers and make sure they are satisfied with the education they receive, Frank said.

Students are “sophisticated customers” who choose where they go to school, and universities have to work harder to get students to attend their schools.

“The financial situation definitely got our attention,” he said.