Legislators and student government leaders are up in arms after an amendment to a footnote in the state budget was added late Wednesday that could increase tuition an additional $50 to $100 — on top the already approved increases — for universities across the state.
The late footnote, added by Tim Foster, president of Mesa State College, could give school administrators the authority to tack $5 per credit hour to tuition.
Student government leaders learned of the change 20 minutes before the bill passed and was sent to the governor’s desk.
“We were taken out of the process”, said Blake Gibson, a CSU student and president of the Associated Students of Colorado, a group of student government leaders from across the state.
He said because of the last-minute nature of the proposal, lawmakers had no time to hash out the complexities of the measure.
“It’s not even quantified how they would do that,” he said. “It just adds another layer of confusion.”
The bill also received harsh criticism from Sen. Steve Johnson (R-Fort Collins), who called the revision “just disgusting.”
The footnote allows for state institutions to tack a $5 tuition fee to the price tag of every credit hour for every student — a change that could double the approved increase.
Originally, the bill stated the increase mandated an approval by 51 percent of the student body at a given institution, but now only calls for 51 percent of the student body that are registered voters.
The provision effectively increases schools’ spending authority, giving administrators more leeway in implementing tuition increases.
The money is “to be used for faculty retention, faculty compensation, or construction of facilities,” according to the footnote.
Gibson said the change came without any warning from state legislators, and that student government learned of it from their lobbyist who called them just before the bill passed.
Johnson said the measure could hike the current increase cap by 100 percent, depending on the number of credits a student is taking.
“For a full time student, five dollars per hour could be $75 or $90 more per semester,” he told the Collegian in an e-mail. “That could be almost double the tuition increase (the Joint Budget Committee) allowed with our footnote. I hope no student vote would approve such an increase.”
Johnson said the increase left a bad taste in his mouth after having dealt with CSU’s last-minute amendment to the Long Bill last year that would have increased tuition more than 30 percent, if student government leaders hadn’t aggressively opposed the change at the Capitol.
CSU President Larry Penley received harsh criticism for last year’s push for not communicating with the Associated Students of CSU about his plans to close the credit gap, effectively increasing tuition $1,200 a year per student.
Penley, who later clashed with Gov. Bill Ritter over the failed tuition hike, promised transparency with the student body about future increases, which he said are a reality, citing a study that placed Colorado dead last in funding for higher education.
“I am absolutely opposed to this proposal,” he said. “CSU and CU acted totally inappropriately in my opinion last year in taking our revenue limit to mean a 16-20 percent tuition increase. That’s why this year we got wise to their ways, and we limited the tuition rate instead of revenue.”
Johnson decried the efforts of Foster and other members of the JBC who supported the proposal.
“I’m encouraging the statewide student association to urge the Governor to veto this stupid footnote,” Johnson said.
Ritter is expected to sign the bill within a week and a half.
Foster didn’t return e-mail messages from the Collegian late Wednesday.
News Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at email@example.com.