CSU student government, in alliance with other student governments statewide, amended sections of House Bill 1301 on Tuesday that officials said in its original form would have eliminated the requirement for prior review from student governments regarding how schools use excess money from student fee-funded capitol expansion projects.
The bill, which was sponsored by former CU-Regent and state Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) and Rep. Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) –– and has bi-partisan support –– served as a reaction to a statewide audit that raised concerns about certain inefficiencies that exist in some university student fee systems, according to Associated Students of CSU Director of Legislative Affairs Matt Strauch.
However, according to Strauch, these inefficiencies aren’t necessarily applicable to CSU’s handling of student fees.
“This bill isn’t something that affects CSU a whole lot because we’re sort of already there in how to handle the fee process,” Strauch said.
This segment of the 43-page bill, Strauch said, was mainly pushed by the Colorado School of Mines, which has since rescinded its support and has accepted the amendments presented by student governments.
Amy Parsons, the vice president for University Operations, said that while the administration would appreciate greater flexibility in how surplus student fees are used in expansion projects, the university also recognizes the need for student voice in these proceedings.
“I don’t think that I could imagine a situation where we would ever, even if the bill went through, not solicit student voice if their fees are being used,” CSU President Tony Frank said.
The Colorado School of Mines was unavailable for comment.
In addition to addressing student fee packages, which the bill refers to as “the new tuition source” for the state’s 49th ranked higher education budget, it also addressed the role of the Colorado Commission for Higher Education as a regulatory body for the state’s universities.
Since the CCHE was given power in 2010 to serve as a regulatory body for setting tuition rates (which are capped at 9.5 percent per year pending approval by CCHE), some university presidents, including Bruce Benson of CU, have repeatedly stated that they would like more freedom in setting tuition rates, according to EdNews Colorado.
Frank, however, said that his administration hasn’t found any problem with CCHE’s regulatory role.
“I’ve never personally found CCHE to be burdensome,” Frank said. “The commissioners take their jobs very seriously.”
Another tenant of the bill, which Strauch described as “long and complicated,” would grant university administration greater freedom to create positions not covered in the personal system and hire retired employees for a long period of time, something that Frank said he could not see happening during his administration and something that he didn’t see a need for.
According to Strauch, the bill ultimately serves to “clean up a lot of things that exist within the Colorado higher education system” and that ASCSU and other student governments are happy with the current form of the bill.
It is set to be discussed on the floor of the State Capitol later this week and was unanimously passed in committee, according to Strauch. He added that the bill has flown through the process, an outcome that he initially expected and an outcome that gave amending the bill a sense of urgency.
“We really appreciate ASCSU working hard to maintain student voice and present a good source of representation for students in the legislature,” Parsons said. “They deserve kudos for the work they’ve done with this bill.”
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