Reader: New CU president needs to tackle student debt issue 


A recent Gazette editorial on the retirement of University of Colorado President Bruce Benson emphasized how his disruptive leadership reinvented higher education. When the Gazette says they cannot find any key cultural, academic or economic indicators that have not improved under Benson, I respectfully disagree.

Hiring a new president will provide an opportunity to address one of the troubling failures of CU leadership that only worsened during his tenure, crushing student debt from escalating tuition.

Colorado ranks 46th in state funding for higher education, and current CU leadership has done little to alleviate the burden of rising tuition and fees. In 1973, students carried 24 percent of the financial burden. Now students pay around 70 percent of the cost. The university's endowment may have topped $1 billion, but the CU President and Board of Regents have done nothing effective with this money to address student costs.

Mean student debt for resident Colorado students with loans in the Class of 2016 at CU Boulder is about $23,300 (up from $16,500 at the beginning of Benson's term).

Families have also been put under more financial pressure every year. The average parental loan debt for resident students at Boulder who had any such debt was $41,100 for the Class of 2016, which impacted 19 percent of student families. Sending our children to school also requires a commitment to help with living expenses, which can be especially daunting for rural families sending their children to urban CU campuses.

This year, Colorado has improved some school funding but, under current CU leadership, tuition and fees will go up 3.7 percent at Boulder anyway. More debt for our students, not less.

Unless new CU leadership finally makes tuition a priority, more rural and low-income young people will miss out on the 65 percent of jobs requiring a higher education degree by 2020. Only those students from wealthy families or who are willing to accept years of debt will take the risk of making it to graduation.

Parents with dreams for their children to have careers, social mobility, an ability to provide well for their own families, and homes they can afford don't need disruptive leadership that reinvents higher education. They need a president and a Board of Regents that lowers the financial barrier to these dreams with responsible, experienced educational leadership that pays attention to the fundamentals.

— Dr. Tony Wolusky, Ph.D., J.D., M.Ed., M.A., candidate for CU Regent, CD-5

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