With possibly the same enrollment as last year, less state
funding and a possible tuition increase, CSU official and state
legislators have a lot to consider this legislative session.
The Colorado General Assembly plans to introduce the College
Opportunity Fund to change higher education financing. However, CSU
officials and Colorado legislators view the potential impact on CSU
The College Opportunity Fund would allot Colorado high school
students vouchers, or stipends, to attend in-state institutions and
would also allow universities to pursue enterprise status, giving
them more control over university financing and tuition.
Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada/Westminster, does not agree with the
legislation and said that it could hurt CSU if the university’s
population does not grow.
“CSU would receive less funding with their new plan than if they
enrolled over 25,000 new students, since funding is partially based
on enrollment,” Sen. Windels said.
Yet, CSU Provost/Academic Vice President Peter Nicholls and
Assistant Vice President of University Relations Tom Milligan said
the university supports many of the ideas presented in the College
“One thing that we have seen in Colorado’s higher education is
unfunded enrollment growth,” Milligan said. “So, if the Opportunity
Fund allows student funding to follow student enrollment, then we
are supportive. It can’t solve the funding issues that we’re
dealing with in and of itself, but it could be a part of a greater
mix of things.”
Nicholls agreed, adding that other necessary implementations to
aid budget problems would be flexibility for the university to set
tuition amounts, as well as university ability to self-manage other
areas of the institution.
“We have state risk management, but if we were to be able to
self-insure some of our own insurance risks we could do it more
economically,” Nicholls said. “There are all sorts of areas that we
could hope for flexibility in, not just with tuition.”
With continual budget decreases in higher education occurring
under TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the university supports
a change in funding methods, but Nicholls worries that stipends
given to students could be used for in-state private or religious
“As I understand it the state subsidy for higher education is a
certain size pot,” Nicholls said. “Currently, that money goes to
state-supported institutions and does not go to private schools.
That could cause difficulty if we have to split that same size pot
with a larger number of schools.”
The bill, which legislators hope to introduce this year as part
of the Public Higher Education Financing Act, would alter
Colorado’s higher education system into a system that subsidizes
students with a stipend to use at their choice in-state institution
instead of directly subsidizing institutions based upon student
While Joe Peters, the legislative aid to Sen. Ed Jones,
R-Colorado Springs, supports the bill, he said a lack of enrollment
growth at CSU could be a funding problem.
“The university would not get funding directly from the state,
but would receive it through students,” Peters said. “Therefore,
freezing enrollment would freeze state funds.”
Although CSU’s future enrollment plans do not include freezing
enrollment, university officials have reported that they hope to
preserve the current size of the university at approximately 25,000
Still, Milligan said the public perception of CSU curbing
enrollment is inaccurate.
“We will make sure that all the kids who are qualified to attend
CSU do so,” Milligan said.
Nicholls added that the university is simply looking more
carefully at prospective students.
“We want to be very careful that the students we admit can
succeed here. We have not set any arbitrary limits, no caps, but we
realized that it was not helping students if we were lenient on
them because they weren’t doing well in school. So, we are going
through all student applicant files to make sure their track
records predict success,” Nicholls said.
The details of the expected legislation are dubious, but if the
anticipated legislation passes and gives the university greater
flexibility, Nicholls said the university still might retain its
decision to maintain current enrollment numbers.
“Growing just for the sake of growing, I’m not sure why one
would particularly want to do that,” he said. “If there are an
increased number of students who are already able to undertake our
program of study, that’s not a bad idea, but I don’t see us
becoming like the University of Minnesota with 50,000