Higher education leaders say Colorado system in peril | AspenTimes.com

Higher education leaders say Colorado system in peril

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Dozens of community leaders and educators delivered their plan for saving Colorado’s state-funded colleges and universities to Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday, warning that voters and taxpayers need to come up with more money for higher education or the system is going to collapse.

Now it’s up to the 11 members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to decide whether to implement the strong medicine needed to save it, including a possible tax increase for voters.

Strategic planning committee co-chairman Jim Lyons said options include raising taxes, providing more state funding, charging higher fees for graduate programs and consolidation of programs.

The commission meets Dec. 2 to review the recommendations.

“Funding is the biggest issue,” said CCHE chairman Jim Polsfut.

Ritter said students will benefit because the plan recommends ways to keep college affordable.

He said lawmakers will eventually have to come up with a plan to sustain funding.

“They can look at this report, or they can put it on the shelf. They can defer this problem for a time if they decide to do that, or they can understand the urgency with which this group of people have spoken,” Ritter said.

The subcommittees recommended that state funding be increased from $550 million to $1 billion to avoid losing ground and close a $476 million inflation gap.

They also recommended flexible pathways to completion of degrees and certificates, and better cooperation between college boards and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which has been criticized for not taking a bigger role in college administration.