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
Foster said that in focus groups with high school students, the
students were “energized” to learn that the state can help them go
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
“I can’t possibly try to look at everybody’s resume,” Foster
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