Salary talk detracts from greater budget concern

The Letter to the editor (CU Connections, Feb. 9) complaining about administrator raises misses a much larger and more important point than it makes.

Yes, the Boulder chancellor now makes $389,000 per year. The chancellor also runs an organization with 14,700 employees, with an annual budget of $580 million. In the private sector he would probably earn more than twice as much. As a matter of fact, the football coach does make more than twice as much!

But the important budget story is that in the last five years, from before the recession, state support for education has dropped $300 million. Since Colorado began its great tax-cut experiment, the drop is roughly double that. That is by far the main reason tuition has gone up. There may well be too many administrators, but that’s not the reason the university is poor. Failure of Coloradans to invest in the future is.

You actually should blame every person who says “taxes for education are a burden,” rather than “taxes for education are an investment in the future.”

I grew up in California, when Silicon Valley was filled with trees, and Apple was a fruit, not a computer. The state invested heavily in education, and the return was enormous, truly stunning. But then Californians were persuaded that they didn’t have to support education, and look where they are now – right where Colorado is, sacrificing the future. And the worst cost is hidden: My students work more and more hours every year. Then some of them say, “You need to make the courses easier; we don’t have time to study.”

The most desirable jobs of the future require education. Lockheed, Google, even factories all want highly skilled employees, not “easy course” graduates.

The last three hires in my technical field here in Colorado all came from outside the United States. When we decrease research and education funding, we lose jobs to countries where investment is increasing.

Recently I took 100 Coloradans on a trip to China. While there, we visited private Chinese families, with a translator. One Chinese mother asked me, “Why do you Americans want to spend all your money now? Why don’t you invest it in the future, like we Chinese do? We want good jobs for our children.” What would you say to that mother?

Douglas Duncan, Ph.D.
Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences


One Response to Salary talk detracts from greater budget concern

  1. says:

    I write to affirm the point made by the author of the 16 February letter “Salary talk detracts from greater budget concern.” The author correctly notes that rather than blaming salary “You actually should blame every person who says ‘taxes for education are a burden,’ rather than ‘taxes for education are an investment in the future.’” I want to affirm the author’s point because it’s so easy to hear (listen, listen) the anti-tax zealots already sharpening their knives to go after such an important (if obvious) truth.

    For many years, many in politics and business-centric “think tanks” (including some powerful forces from outside our state) have maintained a divide-and-conquer strategy. Their rallying cry has centered upon demonizing taxes: all taxes, regardless of their purpose. With propagandistic phrases like “starve the beast” and “it’s your money,” this effort has sought to cast government (including universities) as tax-wasting enemies and the “free market” as the solution. (Who crashed the economy, again?) In the process, large portions of the voting public have become confused about where their actual self interest lies. As Cornell University’s Suzanne Mettler shows in a recent nationwide survey, “Almost half of people who received such submerged state benefits as home mortgage interest deductions, student loans or the earned income tax credit reported that they had not used a government social program.” Source:

    We here in Colorado would do well to resist the disconnection of perception and reality and the divisive rhetoric which makes taxes and government the enemy. The result of such rhetoric, as we’ve seen, is in effect to say that caring for one another–and investing in our future–is not important. But most people have a moral and economic compass which points in a different direction. We would do well to argue more imaginatively and forcefully for what is, in fact, the truly popular cause: a knowledge economy and a state which makes taking care of its own the most important mission.