Aug 172005
Authors: Ben Bleckley

This is the first semester students will receive tuition payments from the state's College Opportunity Fund (COF). However, the university will actually be receiving less money from the state than they did last year and students will be paying more tuition.

"The financial change for the institution really is not much different from what we've had," said Cheryl Hesser, project manager for the COF stipend portion at Student Financial Services. "Actually, it's a little less than what we've received over the years."

That doesn't sound like opportunity knocking to this columnist. It sounds like a higher tuition bill banging down the door. Especially since the university just increased tuition 15 percent, the first double-digit percentage increase in over ten years.

Don't blame CSU, though. They are increasing the number of instructors and providing a quality education at the best cost. It is time the state dealt with its budget problems, an issue on the ballot this November.

"The blatant purpose behind passing (COF) was as a financial gimmick to help the state solve it's financial crisis," said Angie Paccione,

district 53 state representative. "We were looking for as many financial gimmicks two years ago to help the state balance its budget because we didn't want to have to cut addition programs."

The General Assembly is required by law to balance the budget every year. This gimmick has caused some confusion among students.

"I was kind of confused by it," said Sarah Bashford, a freshman art education student entering the University of Northern Colorado. "From what I understand it's this thing I had to fill out so I could get in-state tuition."

The confusion isn't specific to UNC.

"I thought it was a way to get some of the money back after the tuition hike," said Kyle Bunten, a freshman art education major entering CSU.

Some academic advisors are also frustrated by it.

"The COF is no more than a bait-and-switch routine," said Cindy O'Donnell-Allen, an advisor for the English department. "When tuition rises to approximately the same amount as student vouchers, no one is truly making any gains except for politicians who can say they're working to put money directly in students' hands."

Paccione understands the confusion.

"What (COF) does is not necessarily bad, except the way it's being portrayed" Paccione said. "The way it's being portrayed is that every student is going to get $2,400 in addition to what the state had already taken care of for that subsidy. That's false pretense."

The same bill that authorized COF also initially allowed universities to gain enterprise status. If a college receives less than 10 percent of their funding from state tax dollars, they can declare enterprise status and as a result, raise tuition as much as they choose.

"It's a double-edged sword. Here we are saying that we're going to help with the financing of higher education by giving $2,400 but we're also going to allow schools to increase its tuition," Paccione said.

Some feel that COF is a plot to save state money through students who don't find out about the fund in time. However, a number of safeguards protect against this. Students can apply for the stipend up through the last day of classes. A bill Paccione passed this year provided for waivers of the 145 credit limit as well.

But it is far from the ideal solution for higher education. If a program that still reduces funding qualifies as a solution.

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