CU`s value to state residents

By Alan W. Weimer

Posted: 07/07/2011 07:43:34 AM MDT

The Camera article (June 26), “CU fees rank high in Pac-12” correctly shows that only Oregon State University (OSU) has a higher percentage of total fees cost for in-state students and that the University of Colorado will most likely top the list next year. However, what is stated, but missing from this comparison is that Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in terms of funding higher education. In fact, OSU`s state support of $4,121 per student full-time equivalent is substantially higher than CU`s $2,839.

As CU heads down the road to private funding, one can compare the in-state tuition of $7,672/year to that of the University of Southern California ($42,818/year) and other private schools where tuition averages around $40,000 to $50,000/year — based on market competition. In-state CU students get a true bargain. CU faculty ranks 6th in all public universities bringing in research funding.

The concern that CU Regents need to have is when top faculty start walking away to those private schools, and the research grant overhead, which substantially funds significant portions of the CU operating budget, declines. Who will make up that difference?

The state public needs to know that the planned ConocoPhillips campus of 10,000 jobs in Louisville and the forthcoming NASA campus of 10,000 jobs in Loveland are substantially a direct result of outstanding science and engineering programs at CU and other state universities.

Likewise, many startups from CU have provided for many new jobs — even during this downturn. What is particularly frustrating is how our state Sens. Bennett and Udall do little, if anything, to bring earmarks to the Colorado universities — in the name of federal austerity. This would be fine and dandy except not everyone is playing by these rules.

One example, Sen. Harry Reid continues to earmark huge amounts of funding to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas while our senators stand on the sidelines. Declines in federal research budgets will drive the success rate for research proposals to agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) below the frustrating current low 10 percent success rate.

If the country is to pull itself out of this jobless recovery, it needs to invest in its smart people — our Ph.D. students who do cutting edge research and then the many who take the risk and rough road of founding startups to create domestic jobs.

Instead, we will see a continued decrease in funds for scientific research, all in the name of austerity. It took us over two decades to get into this mess. Long term jobs are not created overnight. It amazes me that federal farm subsidies ($18 billion/year) exceed NSF funding ($6 billion/year) by three times, at a time when we clearly need to be inventing, providing the basis for new high-valued jobs.

It is no wonder that the Chinese communist government run by 100 percent engineers and scientists are running circles around our philosophizing lawyers. An example is cornering valuable materials like rare earths, thus providing for substantial high-end technical job growth in China. As a final note, I must commend President Benson for steering CU through the last 3 years of financial hardship. He has a tough job and has served the campus and community well.

Alan W. Weimer lives in Niwot