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GUEST COLUMN: Trump's presidency will benefit students in Colorado

By: Jeffrey Beall
February 11, 2017 Updated: February 16, 2017 at 7:58 am
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During the eight years of the Obama administration, universities and colleges in Colorado became massive bureaucracies, staffed with scores of vice chancellors and other high-level managers, all backed up by hundreds of administrative assistants and other support staff.

There are numerous programs and centers that Colorado universities now manage, many of them part of the university enterprise but completely disconnected from student learning.

The previous administration's policy of bottomless, federally guaranteed student loans has created a vicious cycle of tuition increases and student borrowing, a cycle that universities preserve because it leaves them awash in cash. Vice chancellors use this cash to expand their empires, hiring more administrative assistants and other office staff, increasing their salaries and advancing their careers.

There is little real motivation to economize in Colorado higher education institutions. If you're a university and you need more money, you simply raise tuition. If you're a student, you just borrow more.

Student loans have had a perverse effect - they are gradually making higher education less accessible to an increasing number of students. Tuition is at an all-time high, and there's only so much that one can reasonably borrow.

State-funded universities in Colorado employ legions of vice chancellors. There is a vice chancellor for just about every conceivable function. Many of them are careerist bureaucrats devoted to enforcing this or that federal regulation, with the regulations often penned and - until recently - enforced by counterpart bureaucrats at Obama's Department of Education.

At my university, we have so many vice chancellors that they have their own hierarchy. We have swarms of assistant vice chancellors and associate vice chancellors. We even now have a level called "executive vice chancellor."

Many have offices offering panoramic views of the Front Range, six-figure salaries and university-funded travel budgets they dip in to attend higher education conferences throughout North America.

Much of the funding for these benefits comes from student tuition dollars and Colorado taxpayers.

The battalions of academic administrators are chipping away at the role and influence university faculty have over university governance.

Increasingly, faculty are seen merely as production like workers, laborers tasked only with supplying the product the university is selling. The vice chancellors are the captains of industry.

At my university over the past five years, there has been a great reduction in the number of state civil service employees. Instead, many former state civil service positions have been converted to a new category called "university professional," positions with higher salaries, exempt from state civil service regulations.

Many of these positions are also exempt from PERA and instead participate in the university's generous faculty retirement program, so the university's overall contribution to PERA has decreased greatly in recent years, though many retired university employees draw from the fund.

For a college degree to remain attainable for Colorado students, immediate change is needed. Students cannot keep borrowing more to fund universities' expansions.

Thus, Trump's presidency will directly benefit Colorado college students. Less federal oversight and fewer federal regulations will reduce the need for expensive vice chancellors to enforce these federal mandates.

Colorado universities' long-established practice of automatically raising tuition to generate more revenue will become obsolete, reducing tuition bills and making college more affordable.

Finally, state universities led by faculty - rather than bloated higher education bureaucrats sitting in corner offices - will ensure high-quality education for Colorado college students.


Jeffrey Beall is an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.

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