State needs to hear from the SLV on importance of higher education

(09-24-2014)

Message to residents of the San Luis Valley
from Dr. David Svaldi, President

Adams State University has been able to count on support from the communities of the San Luis Valley ever since its inception, nearly 90 years ago. I don't need to preach to the choir about the advantages Adams State brings our region: 

  • quality, affordable, accessible higher education
  • cultural development
  • economic impact (equal to tourism's contribution)

But I do need to ask the "choir" to testify to the value of Adams State in the San Luis Valley. Here's why: the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) is creating a new formula that will determine how state general funds are divided among public institutions of higher education. The formula goes into effect for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2015.

The CCHE is reaching out to communities across the state to inform the process. They are holding a public meeting at Adams State next Wednesday, October 1, from 6-8 p.m. in the Student Union Building First Floor banquet rooms (off of First St.). I urge you to attend and speak up. This meeting will give San Luis Valley residents the opportunity to answer these questions:

  • What are our priorities regarding higher education?
  • What are the needs of our economy and workforce as it relates to higher education?
  • How do we best invest in the future of our state?

Two important factors make Adams State University much more dependent on state funding than the large universities of the Front Range: our unique role and mission and our isolated, rural location.

First, our mission: Adams State brings higher education to traditionally underserved communities - rural students, low-income students, minority students. Not only is our student population low-income, nearly half are the first in their families to attend college. About one-third graduate from San Luis Valley high schools; half of them would be unable to attend college elsewhere. Adams State is perhaps Colorado's most diverse university campus: 43 percent of our students are white, 32.5 percent identify as Hispanic, and an additional 24.5 percent represent other races/ethnicities or are unknown.

In short, Adams State offers the benefits of higher education and dream of a better life to those for whom it can make the greatest difference. We do indeed serve the underserved, and we do it well. Great Stories really do begin at Adams State University.

Rising college tuition has become a nationwide issue, primarily because of decreased state funding. There has been some economic recovery, but, adjusted for inflation, Colorado's funding for higher education is only at the 1998 level. We rank 47th in the country. Combined with changes in federal financial aid eligibility, these cuts have hit the students of Adams State particularly hard. About 60 percent qualify as low-income, and they are already being negatively impacted. We cannot continue to make up for state funding cuts by raising tuition.

Second, our location: it is difficult to achieve economies of scale on a small, rural campus. Academic advising, tutoring, remedial coursework, and other programs that help our students succeed cost more per student, simply because the student body is smaller. Goods and services often cost more than in urban areas. Each year we contend with higher fixed expenses, such as utility costs, without increased state support. For the past several years, our students have funded campus improvements, because state capital funding had virtually disappeared. We struggle to balance our budget while minimizing tuition increases.

So I ask you, the "choir" of the SLV community, to sing out loudly when the CCHE comes to campus October 1. Please attend the meeting and share your positive experiences and appreciation of Adams State University. We need your help to assure Adams State University - and thus, the San Luis Valley as a whole - receives a fair share of future state funding.