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Public universities receive large amounts of funding each year and oftentimes don’t allocate them with student benefits in mind. The University of Colorado Boulder’s endowment is listed at $1.45 billion, which is high, relative to other universities across the United States. Information about where all this money goes is not always clear.
CU breaks down its budget into four categories: General education funds, research funds, state funding and auxiliary funds. Auxiliary funds are defined by the university as “revenues from activities conducted primarily to provide facilities or services for students, faculty, and staff.” General education funds, however, are not defined in any concrete way in terms of the university budgeting, so there is no way to tell what these funds are actually being spent on. CU offers a spreadsheet for anticipated university expenses each academic year. Even this information is vague.
Ambiguous labels include “Auxiliary Operating Expenditures,” which hovers around $200,000 each year, “Student Services” at about $100,000, or “Institutional support” listed at around $100,000. General labels such as these have no clear definitions as to what they entail, allowing the university to use its own discretion when spending funds. Though students would hope CU practices principled spending, with such ambiguity, it is difficult to hold the university accountable.
The highest funded department at CU for fiscal year 2019 is physics at $38,863,357. The second highest is Chemistry and Biochemistry at $19,540,960, with every other department falling below that number. The most highly funded project during the last fiscal year was the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics Museum listed at $130,448,935. There are no explicit specifications for this research project. All other projects fell well below this number with the second-highest, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, coming in at $99,183,900.
“Though students would hope CU practices principled spending, with such ambiguity, it is difficult to hold the university accountable.”
Dedicating a large portion of monetary resources to academic research shouldn’t necessarily be criticized. The expansion of research for all academic departments is what powers societal development. Not only this, but it brings in a lot of revenue, which continues to give thousands of people an education. Research also shapes students into critical and inquisitive thinkers, preparing them for the professional and academic world.
But since the specifications of university budgeting are not public-knowledge, it affords them the option to cut corners when it comes to student welfare. For example, CU could do more to fund mental health services, improve sexual consent education or even reduce or heavily discountentirely the burden of paying to park on campus. Financing these benefits is important for quality student life and it should be treated that way.
As an especially wealthy university, there is no question of capability for CU to provide better student benefits. There are many student needs that CU doesn’t meet. Student financial wellness and general welfare is simply not CU’s objective though, when more profitable enterprises, such as research, have higher priority.
The responsibility of regulating budget expenses ultimately falls on the university. Students, however, can demand that spending be more transparent. Students should know exactly what their university provides them with and what it does not. After all, students are paying for an education that helps them succeed academically. High-quality student welfare is an important part of that success.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Vayle LaFehr at email@example.com.