The Colorado Higher Education Experience with TABOR:

 

·        Access for Low Income Students:  Colorado ranks 45th among all states on how well states provide access to higher education for low-income students. Wisconsin ranks 17th.

·        Access for Resident Students:  Only 26% of 18-24 year olds are enrolled in public higher education in Colorado. Colorado with a similar population to Wisconsin enrolls a third fewer students in its public colleges and universities. Colorado ranks 45th of 50 states.  Wisconsin ranks 23rd and has 34% of 18-24 yr. olds enrolled in our public higher education system.

·        Future Funding:  State support for public higher education will drop to zero within ten years if present trends continue. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, state general fund appropriations dropped from 20.3% of the budget in 1990 to 10.5% in 2004 (www.cu.edu/challenges.pdf)

 

Possible Questions for Legislators:

 

  1. What impact do you think TABOR would have on higher education in Wisconsin?  Sometimes the cost of goods and services a university must purchase (technology, lab equipment, books, etc.) escalates faster than the consumer price index. How would these cost increases be accommodated? 
  2. What would be the impact on students?  Could our colleges accommodate as many?  Wouldn’t tuition increase much faster?  Wouldn’t already limited opportunities for access to night and evening courses and distance education be further curtailed? What about funding for student financial aid?  Could programs that are entirely self-supporting grow faster than the rate of inflation?
  3. Wouldn’t competition for state dollars disadvantage UW over other areas of state spending? Under TABOR, wouldn’t mandated state support for programs such as K-12, Medicaid (for which feds require matching money) and corrections make it even more difficult to fund public higher education?
  4. What would be the impact on construction?  Would projects that have donor involvement be covered under this legislation? Similarly, would buildings like dormitories, paid for entirely by student fees, require a statewide referendum in order to proceed? What would be the impact on local construction jobs?
  5. Wouldn’t we, in effect, be privatizing the University of Wisconsin System? In Colorado, state funding for higher education has declined precipitously (10% of UC Boulder) budget. Wouldn’t such a decline in Wisconsin force the closure of campuses and losses to the local economy? Isn’t Colorado privatizing public higher education? How would we decide who can get a state subsidized college education in Wisconsin and who cannot? Merit? Geographical Quotas?
  6. Would there be impacts if UW was exempt from TABOR?  If the university were treated like a school district and given its own spending limit, wouldn’t it still lose GPR funding because it would be viewed as able to raise other funds?
  7. Is this the path to economic growth? The UW System cannot meet present enrollment demands. Wouldn’t TABOR further limit access to a college degree and isn’t that just as bad for the state’s economy in the long run?