Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation in Practice

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Sarah S. Hurtado

Second Advisor

Cecilia M. Orphan

Third Advisor

Mike Hoa Nguyen


Higher education, Neoliberal, Policy discourse analysis, Poststructural, Public higher education, State appropriations


State funding for higher education is one of the most pressing issues facing both institutions and policymakers in 2022. Colorado has seen significant declines in the amount of state funding per student over the past two decades, resulting in increases in student burdens for tuition. Policy discourse analysis through a poststructural and neoliberal lens provided insight towards the legislative process and the discursive themes utilized by Colorado policymakers during the 2021-22 legislative budgeting cycle. Twelve artifacts were analyzed, including a mix of policy briefs, hearings, and budget and appropriations reports, for discursive data related to the state’s appropriations for public institutions of higher education. Artifacts came from the Governor’s Office, Colorado Department of Higher Education, Colorado Joint Budget Committee, and Colorado legislative staff offices.

Results showed a significant bias towards neoliberal discussion, reasoning, and motivations regardless of political party or state office. Courses of discussion fell primarily around three themes: student finances, institutional funding, and economy and workforce discourses. In addition to textual analysis, visual analysis was also undertaken. Overall, discourse themes remained consistent from office-to-office with small indicators of attempted independence between participants. Based on these results, policy influencers should be aware of neoliberal pervasiveness and find ways to either subvert the status quo or commit to overt reactionary stances.

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Nathan Willers


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

101 pgs


Higher education, Education policy, Education finance