Clint Talbott: Some clarifications on state funding for higher ed |

Clint Talbott: Some clarifications on state funding for higher ed

Clint Talbott, Publications Coordinator
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Colorado, Boulder

I write to note a few errors and omissions. First, you neglected to mention that more than 60 percent of financial aid comes from private sources, which is relevant because of your implication that public money could be better concentrated in a small portion of the natural sciences.

Second, the College of Arts and Sciences does not, as you suggest, include journalism, which is a separate school in the university. The College of Arts and Sciences is divided into three divisions: natural sciences, social sciences and the arts and humanities. The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, which you mention, is in the natural-sciences division; in addition to clinical psychology (which is what most people associate with psychology), the department helping to unravel the cellular, biological and genetic bases of many human conditions ranging from mental illness to chronic pain.

Third, the CU Office of Planning and Budget Analysis reports that in fall 2010, 499 students (almost four times the number you use) were majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. The number of physics majors reported by CU PBA was 243 (about 4.5 times the number you use).

Fourth, the professors of integrative physiology (whose work enlarges our understanding of processes like human aging, genetics of substance abuse and cardiac physiology, and whose students routinely go on to medical school) might dispute your suggestion that their endeavors are of secondary or tertiary importance.

You are of course free to argue that a liberal-arts education does not deserve state support. But two contextual issues bear mentioning. One is that state support of CU hovers around 7 percent, down from about 25 percent two decades ago. If your view is that the state should assume less responsibility for funding higher education, the state has already made substantial moves in this direction.

The second item of context worth noting is that CU is a national leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and research. The chancellor himself is the principal investigator on this effort, which strives to address the very issues of economic competitiveness that you mention. Faculty in arts and sciences, engineering and education are working together to help tomorrow’s teachers in K-12 and college courses impart an understanding and a love for these disciplines, and, ultimately, to improve America’s competitiveness in the scientific and technical fields needed to address the world’s challenges.

As you may be aware, the National Academies have repeatedly warned of the economic consequences of America’s lagging performance in STEM disciplines. At CU, that call to action is being taken seriously.

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