Over the past several years, there has been much discussion about the decline in public support for higher education. Following the Great Recession of 2008, the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) organization reported that “educational appropriations per full-time equivalent (FTE) students fell to a 25-year low (in inflation-adjusted dollars).” This was partially offset by tuition, which increased at five percent per year between 2009 and 2011, and then by more than eight percent in 2012. 
The accelerating decrease in tax funding has prompted one public university president to famously declare that, “At one time we were state supported. Then we were state assisted. Now we are state located.” In support of this observation, the president of a public university in Vermont recently noted that only one percent of his annual budget now comes from Montpellier.
But while state legislatures retreat from the idea that higher education is a public good, they have not relaxed their oversight and regulation of state schools in any way. In fact, a prominent Colorado legislator once told me that, “so long as the state’s colleges receive as little as one dollar of tax payer money they should expect to be held publically accountable for their actions.” Toward that end, Colorado provides its public colleges and universities with oversight from both chambers of its legislature, from a Department of Higher Education, a Higher Education Commission, and various “system” structures, all at a cost to the Colorado tax payer.