Colorado colleges offer average affordability for students, according to a report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
The report, entitled “Measuring Up 2002: The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education,” assessed each state’s higher education proficiency in five categories: student preparation, student participation, college affordability, student completion and educational benefits.
Colorado received a B- in affordability in the 2000 report and a C- in the 2002 report. However, in the 2002 report there were at least 33 states with lower affordability grades than Colorado’s.
The national center does the report every two years and uses data from the U.S. Census and the U.S. Department of Education. Its purpose is to “assist states in improving higher education opportunity and effectiveness,” said James Hunt, chair for the National Center, in the report’s foreword.
“America’s promise is to offer high-quality education and training after high school for all who can benefit,” Hunt said. ” ‘Measuring Up 2002’ shows that this remains a promise unfulfilled – one that requires the sustained attention of state policy leaders.”
Keith Ickes, associate vice president of Administrative Services, attributes CSU’s low grade to the fact that the 2002 report graded states relative to other states. In this case, California offers so many higher education opportunities that most other states were dropped down in the grading process, Ickes said. California was the only state to receive an A grading and only four states received B’s in affordability.
“Our C ranking is not an absolute C,” Ickes said. “We went down in our overall score because California set a mark that we just could not meet.”
Joan Ringel, spokesperson for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, thinks Colorado received a low score in affordability because the study used 1999 U.S. Census data for both the 2000 and 2002 reports.
“We think that because they used 1999 data, it paints an inaccurate picture,” Ringel said. “We would say that national rankings matter, but it’s important to read between the lines to get an accurate picture of how Colorado measures.”
Ringel said that in the period between 1999 and 2001, Colorado state financial aid for higher education students went up 24 percent. She also said when the CCHE did a composite score for the study’s five rankings, Colorado ended up being ranked ninth in the nation.
Ickes said that TABOR, the taxpayer’s bill of rights, has limited Colorado’s higher education affordability. TABOR limits the money the state can use for higher education and it limits universities’ ability to raise tuition, he said.
Hayden Cole, a junior microbiology major, takes issue with tuition increases that have forced him to take out more student loans.
“I’m not too happy about the tuition increase because what I’m pulling out on loans is more,” said Cole, a Colorado resident.
Ickes said that the tuition increases are necessary because of limited state funds, but that the tuition increases are usually less than $100 per academic year.
“State funds coming to Colorado higher education are not exemplary,” Ickes said.
Despite the lower grade in affordability, Colorado higher education grades did improve in two categories. Grades were better in participation, how much opportunity state residents have to extend education or training after high school, and completion, the likelihood that Colorado college students will complete their education or training in a timely manner.
“Participation has been going up in the last few years, but it’s not enough,” Ringel said. She also said that Colorado has the highest number of citizens with college degrees, but only 37 percent of Colorado high school students continue education after high school.
Both Ickes and Ringel felt the report was good as a whole, but that there were several areas that were somewhat misleading.
“They did a lot of things well,” Ickes said. “It’s a good report, but it requires careful reading.”
-Edited by Shandra Jordan, Colleen Buhrer and Becky Waddingham