Opinion: HB 1252 would rightly require Colorado schools to create public databases of salaries and workloads.
Posted: 02/20/2012 01:00:00 AM MST
By The Denver Post
Colorado’s higher education institutions are under pressure these days as they face declining state support and public furor over repeated tuition increases.
That’s why we think they ought to be the biggest supporters of a measure in the state legislature that would require Colorado’s major universities to create searchable databases of professor and administrator salaries, teaching loads and other information.
It’s an opportunity for these institutions to reassure the taxpaying public that, even in the face of drastically reduced public subsidy, they are good stewards of the money they receive.
However, some higher education officials have qualms about the legislation, House Bill 1252.
Ken McConnellogue, University of Colorado system spokesman, said officials are worried about the expense of gathering information for the database and maintaining it.
“We’re all for transparency, but what is the cost to achieve transparency?” McConnellogue said, citing the complexity of CU’s operations and the bill’s requirement that data be updated every five days.
He also said the university already discloses at least some of the information required by the bill.
These are, no doubt, issues that ought to be addressed. But it strikes us that if CU, for instance, already is compiling the information, it shouldn’t be that hard to funnel it into a user-friendly database.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, isn’t convinced that creating databases would be a burden.
Nikkel has worked on a variety of other government transparency projects in Colorado and has found that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
She spoke highly of the cooperation she has gotten from the Colorado Department of Transportation in its efforts to create a database that, while different, has the same goals — to give taxpayers a look at how the agency spends money. “They have a desire to do this,” she said.
The universities should, too, particularly as tuition continues to climb. The Daily Camera in Boulder reported last month that CU used money that came from last year’s 9.3 percent tuition hike to give raises to many of its top administrators.
The school is asking for a 15.7 percent increase for in-state students for 2012-13.
Nikkel’s bill would apply to CU, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines and the University of Northern Colorado.
Her measure, in our view, should not distract from the larger issue of the state’s lackluster support of its public education system.
The first committee hearing on the bill is set for Feb. 27, and we look forward to hearing more from university officials about their concerns.
We surely hope they find a way to support the measure, and bring ideas to the table about how to make it happen in a way that isn’t overly burdensome to the state’s already stressed universities.
Read more: Editorial: Shine a light on university pay – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_20000554#ixzz1n2264u3n