Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 19, 20173min299

One of the more interesting and well-focused organizations I’ve seen in awhile, the conservative Millennial Policy Center in Denver, keeps doing things right. Jimmy Sengenberger, the 26-year-old radio host who is the center’s president and CEO, is keeping a clear, consistent drumbeat on higher education.

The center is holding a forum on the subject May 25 from 7 to 9 p.m. at its headquarters in South Denver at 3443 S. Galena St.

A panel will talk about the high cost of higher ed. The Millennial Policy Center’s recent white paper addressed the  soaring costs that track with the availability of grants and loans — cost chasing cash. The paradigm leaves millennials buried in debt, Sengenberger contends in the report.

“It’s that time of year again when high school graduates are making that ever-intimidating, all-important decision on where they will go to college. And it’s a stark reminder of the skyrocketing cost of college in America today,” Sengenberger said in a statement. “Our research has found that there are a number of key, dramatic cost-drivers in higher education – and government tends to be at the root of them.”

Krista Kafer, a Colorado Christian University professor and 710 KNUS radio host, will moderate the panel that includes Sengenberger, a 2011 Regis University graduate; University of Colorado Regent-at-Large Heidi Ganahl; and University of Colorado junior Marcus Fotenos, the student body president for external affairs.

Those who attend will be able to ask questions, Sengenberger said.

“With all my heart I believe affordable, quality higher education is the key to keeping the American dream alive,” Ganahl said in the press release. “It’s time to address the issues our colleges face head on, and I’m excited Jimmy and his organization are jumping in.”

The forum will be streamed online on the Millennial Policy Center’s Facebook page.

Fotenos said one of the most common concerns he hears from his CU constituents is the cost of college degree.

“This is a complex problem that all students are facing, and there is no simple solution,” he said in a statement. “I am excited to speak on this panel and bounce ideas off of some of the best minds in Colorado.”

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 9, 20173min312

If you follow this site closely you know I love locally shot Youtube videos that tells a Colorado political story. Nourie Boraie with the Senate Republicans and Joel Malecka with the House Republicans bring it week in and week out on their respective caucus YouTube pages.

I’m glad I didn’t have to pick between them, because the winner for the first Joey’s Colorado Politics Youtube Video Prize for this year’s legislative session goes to Jimmy Sengenberger and the Millennial Policy Center.

He’s not getting a gold statue, but I owe him a plate of fried chicken at The Welton Street Cafe in Five Points. (Man, that’s good chicken.)

A couple of weeks ago the Millennial Policy Center, a Denver-based conservative think tank on policy and finances, put out a paper questioning whether it was loans and grants chasing the high price of higher-ed, or the other way around.

Now Sengenberger backs up with some clever satire.

“These days it’s hard to see how colleges and universities are all that different than a used car salesman,” he says, after hearing a pitchy from a guy who looks like one of my uncles who sold hubcaps in Slidell.

“… Yet for some reason we keep buying what they’re selling.”

Whether you’re on board with the center’s point of view on the cost of college chasing the availability of people to pay, you have to respect the creativity and execution of this YouTube gold.

“Push, pull or drag your degree into Bill of Goods today. Got some AP credits? Trade them in for something you can really use, like that yoga class.”

“The reality is that with all that money out there, college has gotten more expensive over the years, not less,” Sengenberger says on the video.

“Why is that? In 2015, the New York Federal Reserve found there was a direct connection between the rising cost of college and the growing availability of student loans and grants.”

(Editor’s note: This blog was updated to correct the spelling of Nourie Boraie’s name.)

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 2, 20173min281

The climbing cost of higher education is responding to the availability of loans and grants, according to a report out Monday from Denver’s Millennial Policy Center.

“Restoring Higher Education in America” looks at cost and reform for higher ed from a conservative point of view. Jimmy Sengenberger, the author of the report and the center’s 26-year-old president and CEO, said competition is the answer.

‘College is not for everyone,’ senator says, so make tuition assistance flexible

“It’s essential that any substantial higher education reform measures directly address the main drivers of this $1.4 trillion college calamity by injecting real market forces – especially competition – throughout the system,” he said in a statement.

The center used May Day, the spring festival and the socialist International Workers’ Day, to provide its research and analysis on the cost of higher education.

“It’s that time of year again when graduating high school students, consumed by ‘senioritis’ are making that ever-intimidating, all-important decision on where they will go to college. And it’s a stark reminder of the skyrocketing cost of college in America today,” Jimmy said.

“In the last decade alone, the cost of college has skyrocketed 170 percent, the average new graduate is $37,000 in debt, and student loan debt now stands at $1.4 trillion. The trajectory we are on is both unsustainable and destructive, and strategic reforms are needed.”

The full report is available here.

It also calls for:

Dramatic Reforms to the Financial Aid System. A fundamentally broken system requires dramatic reforms. There are five key steps which, phased in over a period of no more than 2-3 years, will remedy the flaws inherent in the student financial aid system and lower costs.

First, the duplicitous nature of our various student loan programs – Perkins, Federal Direct (subsidized and unsubsidized), and the PLUS loans – is unnecessarily complex. Congress should instead consolidate these student loan programs into two programs, one for students and one focused on parents. Congress should also reinstitute the option of private servicing of loans, as opposed to having the Department of Education as the exclusive lender, and establish academic performance standards and time limits on loans.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanMarch 29, 20175min382
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

A new bipartisan bill, Achieving a Vision for Education in Colorado, HB17-1287, sets up an advisory board to create a strategic plan for public education, preschool through college, for implementation up to 2030. The bill recognizes that the 21st century world is “fiercely competitive” and that a “world class highly effective twenty-first-century learning system is the key to Colorado’s economic success.”

The bill also says, “in recent elections, voters have been unwilling to balance local funding with increased amounts of state resources for education.” School districts could argue the opposite — that the state has been unwilling to ask for adequate resources to fund local schools.

The bill states that the current public education system, overall, is mediocre. Educators, bottom to top, can say that public school funding is mediocre. TABOR tax limitations have steadily reduced Colorado’s financial support of its institutions of higher education, leaving students to cover ever-increasing tuition bills and state colleges and universities to seek out-of-state students to bolster revenues.

Public school K-12 students over the last eight years have lost about one year of school funding to the Legislature’s so-called “negative factor,” the amount of money the state should give to public education but can’t because of limited revenue. This underfunding especially affects rural districts and districts with lots of poor kids, such as Aurora School District, which has recently been pummeled by A Plus Colorado for its poor achievement results.

Currently, the state is in a multi-hundred million dollar budget crisis, mostly of TABOR’s making, putting a whole slew of state responsibilities at risk, including rural hospitals, housing support and much abused roads, bridges and highways. The Legislature might get a bill through to increase the state’s sales tax to put more money into transportation. But some tax averse Republicans say the Legislature should be able to pay for transportation out of current revenues. Others ask, “and what might those be?”

Does the education vision bill recognize that Colorado is at a critical tipping point? Our education system can either end up like Kansas or Massachusetts. Currently, Kansas public schools are going bankrupt due to tax cuts that gutted funding. Massachusetts has a dynamic economy and a highly competitive public education platform — from its universities to its urban schools — due to strong public financing.

Maybe it’s time to turn the money conversation on its head. Instead of talking about taxation, it’s time to talk investment. Here is an example. Back in the sixties, former Gov. Pat Brown of California invested in the University of California and the California State College, now University system. UC added UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine and UC San Diego. It recently added UC Merced in the central valley.

Until recently, these public universities provided low-cost, high quality education. California’s community college system, until recently, offered college courses at $20/credit.

Like Colorado, California’s public spending on education was severely constrained by Prop 13, a property tax precursor to TABOR. Unlike Colorado, California’s current governor, Jerry Brown, took the investment issue to voters. California’s citizens authorized billions of dollars in tax increases to spend on transportation and education, a reinvestment commitment bound to pay off for decades.

Colorado likes to grab companies from California. How long will that continue with our “mediocre” public schools? Certainly, there’s a tax point between where we are now and where California is that will provide enough re-investment to reinforce our dynamic economy and end our very poor funding of state responsibilities.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanFebruary 23, 20175min342

Student data privacy and standardized testing have floated around the Capitol as hot issues for several years. In this legislative session, religious and citizenship discrimination has been added to this boiling stew through SB17-102, a bill concerned with demographic information collected by the College Board testing service through its Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). This year, House and Senate legislators are collaborating on the bipartisan HB17-1181 that requires schools to give the PSAT to ninth graders to satisfy state assessment obligations. As it turns out, all the students who take this required, school district-delivered test will be asked a series of questions at the beginning of the testing period related to their demographics. Two of these questions concern citizenship status and religion. Other questions concern ethnicity, race, sex and the level of parents’ education.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanFebruary 8, 20174min389

Huey Long, the legendary populist from Louisiana, said “The time has come for all good men to rise above principle.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century transcendentalist, said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Both aphorisms are much in play lately. Republican Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, is sponsoring a bill, SB17-062, on free speech. The bill “prohibits institutions of higher education from restricting a student's constitutional right to speak in any way in a public forum …” Anyone who supports the First Amendment should support this bill. Public institutions should not set aside special areas or "zones" for "free speech” to protect students from any ridiculous thing that someone may say in a public place.