Mar 072011
 
Authors: Erin Udell

Editor’s note: It was incorrectly reported that increases to sales and income taxes, as proposed by Senate Bill 11-052, would generate $163 billion, not $1.63 billion.

According to Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, there is a point in one’s life when taking action is no longer optional.

Heath, on his official website, said he reached that point in February when he saw the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-12, in which there are $411 million worth of cuts to Colorado education funds — $36 million from higher education.

This is why he presented a new version of Senate Bill 11-052 to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, CCHE, on March 4.

The revised measure would base 25 percent of state funding on the institution’s performance and ability to meet goals set by the CCHE.

Another of the bill’s objectives is to increase the number of degrees and certificates awarded in Colorado by the year 2020. With 43,000 degrees earned in 2010, the bill aspires a 30 percent increase in the next decade.

While many students want to see tuition rates go down, Heath also wants to see students graduate.

“The purpose of the bill and the spirit of the bill has not changed at all,” Heath said in a phone interview. “The fundamental idea behind this is not to get kids enrolled but to get them to graduate — to end what they started.”

The bill’s goals also include increased access to affordability, reduction in ethic gaps in college completion and increased contributions of higher education to economic development.

“The issue with this bill stems from the lack of funding to develop these initiatives and hanging the proverbial carrot on the stick for funding,” said Matt Strauch, director of Legislative Affairs for the Associated Students of CSU.

CSU officials are unsure how the bill would affect the university. Public Relations Director Michele McKinney said CSU will be working closely with the CCHE on the bill.

“It’s hard to say how this bill, if passed, would impact CSU, as this bill will likely change as it moves through the legislative process,” McKinney said. “The bill is broad and deep with implications for all higher education institutions as it is proposing a new system of higher education funding.”

Heath has also recently filed a citizen initiative to help higher education funding.
The initiative, which was filed on Feb. 28 to be put on the ballot in November of this year, asks voters to approve a three-year $163 billion tax increase.

With Gov. Hickenlooper’s possible cut to higher education funding, from $555 million to $519 million, the initiative would raise Colorado’s sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3 percent and income tax from 4.63 percent to 5 percent.

Tuition at CSU has more than doubled over the last 10 years, Strauch said in an e-mail to the Collegian. “Higher Education funding isn’t protected by any law or policy, making it an easy target.”

While the future of the initiative is unknown until the November elections, SB 11-052 will have its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee on March 17.

“I’m thinking there will be a good deal of amendments introduced when it is finally heard later this month,” Strauch said. “It’s amazing the number of bills this legislative session that seek to regulate higher education in some way.”

Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:14 pm