Colorado college leaders want freedom to hike tuition
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Facing possible funding cuts, the leaders of some colleges and universities in Colorado want the freedom to raise more money through tuition hikes.
Currently, the schools get between 10 and 25 percent of their funding from tax dollars and state lawmakers have the final word on how much they can raise tuition each year. However, University of Colorado president Bruce Benson and other leaders fear higher education funding will be among the first areas to be cut as lawmakers look to eliminate about $640 million from this year’s budget because of the recession.
“Give us the opportunity to control our destiny,” Benson said, “especially if you’re not going to give us money to run the place.”
University of Northern Colorado president Kay Norton and Metropolitan State College president Steve Jordan support the idea as well as Republican state Rep. Don Marostica of Loveland, a member of the Joint Budget Committee. It could be proposed during the next legislative session, which starts next week.
Funding for higher education was slashed following the 2001 recession since it is one of the few areas lawmakers can cut because constitutional and federal restrictions protect spending for Medicaid, kindergarten through 12th grade schools and prisons.
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At Metro State, in-state students currently pay about $5,000 a year in tuition and fees, which is about half what similar schools in other states charge according to national studies. Jordan said he would like to increase tuition between 3 and 5 percent each year for a couple of decades.
“I think they (college presidents) need to be able to control what they feel the tuition needs to be,” Marostica said. “They’ve got to fill their campuses to make it work. They know how much they can push their tuition up.
However, David Lonanecker, executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, said low-income students are hurt when tuition rates are raised without adequate financial aid.
Colorado spends about $260 per undergraduate student on aid, less than the national average of $515 according to the National Association of State Scholarship and Grant Programs.
“There is no history of higher ed serving the most needy students,” he said. “It’s a classic area of where the market fails.”
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