After nearly three months of debate, the Colorado House of
Representatives and the Colorado Senate passed a bill Tuesday
creating college vouchers.
The nationally unprecedented College Opportunity Fund is finally
ready to be sent to the governor’s desk for the final signature,
and legislators are hoping it’s a one-way ticket.
The House was required to review the bill again Tuesday after
Gov. Bill Owens vetoed an 8 percent tuition increase. These
increases would be applicable only to schools that qualified for
enterprise status by the date set in the bill of July 1, and only
CU-Boulder would have met these requirements by that time, said
Jennifer Nettesheim, spokesperson for the Colorado Commission on
“That’s a lot of extra money to allow CU to take in,” Nettesheim
said. “That’s not a very competitive rate compared to other
Owens described the raises as an “unreasonable burden on
students,” in the Denver Post. Last year Owens vetoed a 10 percent
increase but later approved a raise 6 percent.
Public universities in the state will feel some of this “burden”
as well, because in the bill, students will be allotted $2,400
towards public institutions and $1,200 towards private schools.
Because private schools do not currently receive the level of
funding public schools do, this will draw money out of public
Although CSU may receive less state funding, President Larry
Penley is supportive of the voucher system on a philosophical level
of supporting education, public or private, as well as providing
universities an outlet to escape TABOR’s restrictions, said Gerard
Bomotti, vice president of Administrative Services at CSU.
The primary focus of the long bill is to help alleviate the
burden of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights on higher education. TABOR
puts limitations on tax increases for Colorado citizens, which as a
result has deprived higher education of funding as the economy has
witnessed a downturn in recent years. In the past three years,
higher education has weathered $150 million in cuts.
The bill attempts to ease the burden by providing higher
education with money via a voucher system for resident students,
rather then receiving money directly from the state General Fund.
Higher ed is under the restrictions of TABOR because it receives
this funding. If the voucher system is implemented, colleges and
universities are entitled to receive enterprise status. Enterprise
status is attained by universities keeping state funding lower than
specified levels, and in-turn tuition money is not subject to TABOR
Tuesday, the College Opportunity Fund, formally known as SB 189,
was passed on its third reading in the House, re-passed by the
Senate after the house amendments and Owens is expected to pass it,
according to the Denver Post.
“It sounds like Colorado will be the first state in the nation
to receive college vouchers,” Bomotti said. “That’s a historic