DENVER — For the first time in the history of Colorado education, the Joint Budget Committee met with student government to hear their proposal to replace a university revenue limit mandate with a tuition increase limit.
The Associated Students of CSU implored the committee to negotiate with university administration to not allow the cost of tuition to increase more than 10 percent each year.
The request comes after CSU President Larry Penley added a last-minute resolution to the Long Bill last year that could have increased tuition by 32 percent at CSU. Penley’s controversial push for an increased spending authority was blocked after ASCSU lobbied against the increase, saying a $1,200 increase per student was too extreme for one year.
The final increase was 16 percent, which included a credit gap closure that brought tuition assessment to 10 credits, up from nine.
Most universities assess tuition at 12 credits, effectively increasing the cost of an education, while not technically increasing tuition.
“Students are the consumers of higher education since we are the only ones paying for and invested in the process,” August Ritter, director of Legislative Affairs at ASCSU, said in a prepared statement. “I think it is important to remember that the students are the key to higher education and without us, higher education wouldn’t exist.”
But Rep. Jack Pommer (D-Boulder) said that with existing Colorado legislation, the committee has its hands tied in increasing funding for education and CSU administration has to be willing to compromise.
He said a 1992 citizen’s initiative that put a cap on how much Colorado could raise taxes, coupled with a 2000 amendment that required a certain amount of funding for K-12 education shuts off the flow of state money to higher education.
“I don’t really frankly see a decent option,” Pommer said. “The TABOR [Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights] limit wasn’t done by the legislature. It was done by someone outside collecting signatures.”
Ritter said the solution to the situation was not for the state to take control over tuition at CSU, but for the university, students and the state to work together to come to an acceptable agreement for all parties.
Sen. Steve Johnson (R-Fort Collins) applauded ASCSU for taking the initiative to suggest solutions to the tuition price tag that is skyrocketing — it increased more than 10 percent for the average student in the U.S. and 16 percent for students at CSU this year.
He said keeping the price from increasing more than 10 percent is feasible for CSU next year.
Because the university charges relatively low tuition prices in comparison with its peer institutions because of the lower tuition assesment, it must catch up with peer institutions, Ritter said, but not at the expense of subjecting students to “unreasonable tuition increases.”
Colorado is dead in per-student funding of higher education, according to a 2007 State Higher Education Executive Officers report.
“We understand that our school is receiving limited funds from a state with extremely large budget constraints,” Ritter said. “At CSU we have a credit gap closure that we need to take care of, and as students we are willing increase our tuition in order for that to happen. But don’t be mistaken. No matter what you call it. a credit gap closure is a tuition increase.”
Johnson said student governments from institutions across the state should follow in the footsteps of ASCSU and request a meeting with the Joint Budget Committee to express their opinions and needs.
“It’s a negotiating process, and if you’re not present, you can’t negotiate,” he said.
News Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.