Colorado State University - Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare asks How DOES America Pay for College?

Colorado State University - Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare asks How DOES America Pay for College?

PUEBLO – Colorado State University-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare used the national landscape of higher education to provide context for the funding challenges students and the University will face in the coming years as part of a State of the University Address presented this morning (Sept. 25). Di Mare emphasized that continued “defunding” of higher education jeopardizes not just the economic futures of students but the economic well being of the communities in which higher education institutions reside. In spite of the difficulties, CSU-Pueblo is attracting more international and graduate students and retaining its current students at a higher level in order to meet its budget projections.

Di Mare reported that the University leadership accurately predicted the three percent decline in fall enrollment as it prepared for this year’s budget and was pleased that the revenue stream was enhanced by a 10 percent rise in international students and a six percent increase in graduate students, who bring in more tuition dollars.  Retention of existing students also rose six percent to 63 percent.

The University will aim to increase that number by two percentage points each year over the next five years to meet long term enrollment and budget targets. The University also will continue to actively recruit Hispanic students and veterans. This fall, the University recorded its largest percentage of undergraduate Hispanic students in school history at 31 percent, more than 2.5 the state average of 13.8 percent. CSU-Pueblo’s status as an Hispanic Serving Institution has resulted in $12 million in federal grants since 2006, including funding for STEM programs, the ProPEL Center, TRIO programs, and Veterans Upward Bound.

With nearly 300 veterans enrolled on campus, the University also will continue to support their success.

“Campus leadership supported the construction of the Veterans Resource Center and has made a commitment to sustain that center and support it with staff who can advise veterans on academic, financial, and career matters,” she said.

Di Mare outlined the defunding of higher education nationally and in Colorado as well as the economic landscape in general to illustrate the resulting consequences for students, their parents, and institutions.


Referencing a 2013 study by Sallie Mae, Di Mare noted that while 85 percent of families strongly agree that college is an investment in their children’s future, American families don’t think strategically about paying for their child’s education. In fact, six out of 10 families do not have a financial plan to pay for all years of college before their student enrolls. As a result, more families are using grants and scholarships to fund college costs. The economic realities, including a 33 rise in the Consumer Price Index from 2000-2012 and a 9 percent decrease in household income, have caused the percentage parents have contributed toward college expenses to decrease from 37 percent to 27 percent just since 2010.

Federal and state government funding for higher education has decreased dramatically while the average cost of attending any four year school has risen by 44 percent. Di Mare noted that Colorado has cut its state funding by 32 percent in the last five years, which has resulted in Colorado colleges increasing their tuition by 41 percent over that same five-year period.
“Higher education cuts may harm students and the economy for years to come,” Di Mare said. “States are spending 28 percent less per students on higher education nationwide than they did in 2008 when the recession hit.”

She predicted that higher education would become the next “housing bubble,” with student debt loan default rates replacing mortgage rates as the unfortunate consequences. To combat CSU-Pueblo’s 15 percent default rate, the University has entered a partnership with SALT, a company that teaches students and alumni how to borrow less for college, borrow the right types of loans, make repayment stress-free, and build money skills for life.

She emphasized that students aren’t the only ones hurt by the cuts.

“Most of us have probably already heard that a college graduate earns almost a million dollars more over a lifetime that those without a degree,” she said. “What we often don’t’ discuss is how a community, our community, benefits when more residents have college degrees.”
with highly educated residents and tend to pay educated employees competitive wages and better benefits. Communities with educated workforces also experience lower crime rates, higher employment rates, and less reliance on state aid programs.

The last economic impact study completed for the University by Hasan School of  Business Professor Kevin Duncan noted an economic impact of about $128 million along with dramatic influences on the real estate, motor vehicle, and utility industries and the retail sector.

Di Mare fears the education system will not be able to keep up to the demand for educated workers and referenced a study by that the nation’s system of higher education will produce three million fewer college graduates than the labor market will demand. In addition, she said by 2018, 62 percent of all jobs will require some college education.

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.