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Experts weigh in on budget crisis

Seeking to educate students on the scope and solutions to the budget crisis facing higher education, a panel met April 13 in Tivoli Room 320. An economist, policy analyst, political science professor and former legislator gave their opinions of the crisis and what can be done in the long-term to prevent it from happening again.

$LA$HED • THE BUDGET CRISIS

FYI: The town of Kennesaw, Georgia, has required its citizens to own a firearm and ammunition since 1982. • THE METROPOLITAN • APRIL 16, 2009 • METRO • A7

Lance Denning Assistant professor of political science at Metro Denning said that the current tax laws in Colorado emphasize the individual’s choice and because of that services that are necessary are not getting the funding they require. “We don’t invest in higher education because we live in a world that emphasizes individual choice. Tough times call for tough decisions. You have to fund…things that you consider essential goods. Education needs to draw a line in the sand.”

Alexandre Padilla Professor of economics at Metro Padilla said that while he doesn’t claim to be an expert on education, he does understand economics and changing the tax laws to fund higher education could be damaging to Colorado. He said institutions also must seriously consider raising tuition, increasing class sizes and finding private funding as options. “You have to make a tradeoff. The question isn’t how do we get out of this trouble, the question is how do we get out and prevent it.”

Robert Reichardt Research associate at UCD Saying that Colorado “imports” talent from other states, Reichardt said the budget issue stems from choices Colorado voters made on structuring tax laws, which reflect the state’s values. He said there needs to be a push to educate people on the importance of funding higher ed. — both in terms of the economics of keeping educated people here and in terms of the morals of providing an education for students. “We have handed the power for controlling our revenues to voters. Good luck.”

Andrew Romanoff Former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Romanoff suggested that instead of offering rebates to citizens when there is excess in the budget during good times, Colorado needs to start a “rainy-day” fund. “The immediate problem, the shortfall in this budget year, there aren’t any good answers now. You just have to cut expenses in higher ed. and elsewhere. Over the long-run, I think we need to save money when times are good so we have it when times are bad.”

Faculty in for a bumpy ride with budget cuts
Staff, salary reductions possible options to weather financial storm
By Andrew Flohr-Spence spencand@mscd.edu
The uncertainty about next year’s budget has many Metro professors worrying about their jobs. Metro President Stephen Jordan updated the Faculty Senate April 8 on several scenarios his staff was looking at to manage the drop in funding, but said his office was unable to say anything for certain until the state had finalized the budget. “We are dealing with lots of uncertainty and we are having to plan for two different worlds,” Jordan said. His staff is working on nine different options for the school to deal with whatever this year’s cuts end up being, and at the same time, the president has to keep the pre-financial-crisis plans, such as future construction and the growth of the college, alive. “It’s a bit like being the captain on the titanic,” Jordan said, adding, “ least as far as At navigating through the financial icebergs.” Depending on what the state comes up

“It is irresponsible for a professor to not talk about the budget situation with their classes. So few students know about it even now, and it affects their futures so much. And that’s our job: we’re teachers.”

- Lunden MacDonald, Spanish professor

with, all of the plans for fall include downsizing staff and students. Losing more than 60 percent of its state funding, or more than 35 percent of Metro’s total operating money — the cuts as the Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee had them — will force the college to make big changes. One change the college is looking into is reducing enrollment by 700 students in the bestcase scenario and 7,000 students in the worst case. Jordan said the college is working on drafting new standards for admissions. Among the other solutions Jordan’s staff is

looking at is a large reduction in staff. Juan Dempere from the finance department asked Jordan about the possibility of faculty losing their jobs. Dempere added to his question that it would only be fair to give the faculty adequate notice, so in a tough job market, they would have time to search for new opportunities. Jordan said tenured faculty would be last to lose their jobs. He added in the last economic recession, the college did not cut any full-time faculty from the staff. However, any faculty that left the college were not replaced. “The faculty is freaking out,” said Lunden MacDonald, a tenured Spanish professor and active member in the Metro community. MacDonald said the pay freeze would hurt her and other professors, especially following so closely the past pay freeze from 2003 to 2005, the last time the state cut funding, but said those faculty who are close to retirement would be hurt the most because the money received in retirement is based on a percentage of the salary last received. And taking a pay cut is for the lucky ones. “ lot of part-time faculty have to consider A going elsewhere,” MacDonald said. “If you can’t depend on your job being there next year and you don’t know if you will be able to support your family — no matter how much you

love this institution — you have to think of the future.” MacDonald said while professors are prohibited from advocating for specific political causes as state employees, in her opinion it is a professor’s job to inform the students about the situation. “It is irresponsible for a professor to not talk about the budget situation with their classes,” she said. “So few students know about it even now, and it affects their futures so much. And that’s our job: we’re teachers.” MacDonald said beyond informing the students, all professors could do was call their Colorado House and Senate members and hope for the best. And many of the professors she knows are calling neighbors, friends and family informing them about the situation and urging them to contact their representatives. “I think it’s outrageous that the state would contemplate balancing the budget on the backs of higher education,” assistant professor Kip Wotkyns said, standing in the crowd on April 14 at the Capitol. He was glad to see students getting involved in the political process and decided to cancel class for the day and have his students cover the rally as a class assignment. “It was only fair that I come along, too,” Wotkyns said.