Feb 032004
 
Authors: Kyle Endres

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education’s executive director

called a possible proposal to allow a vouchers-type program and

enterprise status for universities the “next great idea” to deal

with higher education budget woes Tuesday afternoon.

Tim Foster, who spoke before the Faculty Council at its monthly

meeting, talked about the College Opportunity Fund as an

alternative to limits imposed by TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of

Rights. TABOR was enacted in 1992 and greatly restricts a

university’s ability to set tuition levels.

Foster said that since the taxpayers voted TABOR into being,

they would be less likely to reverse its effects. TABOR has

provisions in it to protect K-12 education, Medicare and

corrections, which leaves any remaining funding to be split among

other programs, including higher education.

The College Opportunity Fund would be an option to lessen

TABOR’s effects through the Colorado General Assembly.

“I would tell you that the College Opportunity Fund allows us to

compete with those three and say we’re not the only optional thing

in this budget,” Foster said.

The two components of the College Opportunity Fund are a

scholarship program, also known as vouchers or stipends, and

enterprise status for state public universities.

The scholarship program would give universities money on a

per-student basis for undergraduate in-state students. This would

help begin to offset the fact that Colorado is among the lowest in

the nation in sending its high school students to college.

“What I’m saying is we’re not getting people to college,” Foster

said.

Foster said that in focus groups with high school students, the

students were “energized” to learn that the state can help them go

to college.

Foster was also in favor of the enterprise status component that

would allow universities more flexibility in setting tuition.

Gerry Callahan, an associate professor with a joint appointment

in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and the

English department, said he is wary at times of the CCHE’s plans

for higher education.

“I’m afraid that the CCHE at times sees what we do too much like

they see manufacturing. It becomes a bottom line kind of thing,”

Callahan said. “I think its concern about our future is real. I

think the process becomes politicized.”

Foster also discussed the debate over an academic bill of rights

currently in the state legislature that would work to ensure that

different political viewpoints are encouraged in the classroom.

“Our job is to provide a balanced viewpoint,” he said.

However, he also said it is the universities’ responsibility to

ensure diverse viewpoints in class. He said it would be impossible

for the CCHE to make sure students feel comfortable expressing

their opinions.

“I can’t possibly try to look at everybody’s resume,” Foster

said.

Raymond Robinson, associate chair of the physics department,

said he enjoyed hearing from Foster.

“I think it was most refreshing to have the executive director

of the CCHE,” said Robinson, an associate professor of physics. “I

believe he led a very enlightening discussion of the political

climate in Colorado and he showed a deep and clear understanding of

the issues.”

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