Apr 152004
 
Authors: Erin Skarda

The Colorado House Education Committee unanimously passed the

first college stipend bill on Wednesday, despite opposition from

some committee members.

Senate Bill 189 establishes a funding program that would allow

the state to give assistance to students rather than individual

institutions. In-state students planning to attend Colorado public

institutions would receive stipends of about $2,400. The bill is

headed next to the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill, which has received support from Gov. Bill Owens and

CSU President Larry Penley, also allows students attending private

universities like Colorado College, the University of Denver and

Regis University to qualify for half of the stipend. Other private

colleges, however, are not eligible for the aid.

Linda Kuk, vice president for Student Affairs, said supporters

of the bill believe it is a way to inform students of state

contributions to their tuition.

“The main benefits will be that it’ll help students understand

the costs of higher education,” Kuk said. “It puts the money in the

hands of students to contribute to their institutions.”

Supporters also say the bill will help the institutions escape

the restraints of TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which

controls the revenue and expenditures the state can make. This will

allow institutions to receive more outside funding.

“The voucher bill helps higher education not be subject to

spending limits,” Kuk said. “They will have the ability to raise

the tuition higher. I don’t know if they will because they don’t

want to out-price themselves.”

Jennifer Nettesheim, spokesperson for the Colorado Commission on

Higher Education, said the stipend program has a number of benefits

for students.

“The benefits it has on students is it will bring public

awareness that the state helps support education if you choose to

go to a public institution,” Nettesheim said. “We believe that if a

student knows we are helping pay, they will be more motivated to

apply to go to college.”

Nettesheim also said the bill will benefit institutions because

their budget will be less reliant on state funding.

“The bill allows them to receive less than 10 percent (of) state

funding,” Nettesheim said. “They will have the option of becoming

an enterprise being removed from TABOR.”

While opponents of the bill believe it misleads students and

parents to think they do not need to save for college, Nettesheim

said the commission thinks people don’t understand the way higher

education is currently funded.

“If you go into a high school and ask a student how much it

costs to go to college they have no idea,” Nettesheim said. “We

think it’s a wonderful opportunity to educate people. We can give

education at an affordable price. Will you have to save? Yes. There

are so many avenues to take to get an education. There are ways to

fund it. We don’t believe it’s misleading.”

CSU spokesman Tom Milligan said the bill is a positive

development.

“One potentially positive effect is the money will follow the

student where they enroll,” Milligan said. “This is a good step.

It’s only a first step and it won’t solve the funding issues.”

Milligan said this bill might help bring more students to

CSU.

“CSU enrolled more Colorado residents than any other campus. We

are proud of that,” he said. “I think it’s possible creating this

stipend will let people know there’s more money to attend college

and let more people come to CSU.”

While some people may worry this bill will increase tuition and

funds, Kuk said the bigger problem lies with the amount of money

available.

“How they distribute per student is not the issue,” Kuk said.

“The problem is if the pot is big enough. The voucher system is a

way to help get out from under TABOR, not helping the amount of

dollars available.”

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