Feb 252003
 
Authors: Christopher J. Ortiz

With almost an assured tuition increase for next year, in part because of state budget restraints, how much it will be raised is still in question, according to university and state officials.

Because of the state’s dramatic recession this past year, revenue, including tuition, from state entities such as CSU will not reach TABOR’s limits, allowing more flexibility in tuition increase.

“This year, like last year, the state fell below the TABOR revenue cap by $450 million,” said Gerard Bomotti, vice president for administrative services.

Bomotti said this will hopefully allow institutions to increase tuition at a higher rate than in the past, in order to compensate for budget cuts the state legislation has imposed on higher education.

“Like another business, CSU has fixed costs,” Bomotti said. “If higher education sees more cuts, it will need to find relief in tuition.”

CSU was forced to cut $14.8 million from its budget after the state required an 11.5 percent budget cut.

Before any tuition increases occur to make students ponder how much more they will have to spend at CSU, there are certain hoops CSU has to jump through to increase tuition.

The process for CSU to petition a tuition increase starts with the university working with the Colorado Commission for Higher Education in submitting increases to the Joint Budget Committee, the state general assembly’s permanent fiscal and budget review agency. The JBC then submits to the state legislature the proposals in the form of a bill. A final bill must be approved by both houses and the governor.

Later this year, JBC will write an annual appropriation bill, called the Long Bill, for the operations of the state government, which includes public universities and colleges.

“Traditionally, the commission felt, like the governor, that in a down economy people shouldn’t be forced to pay higher tuition when there is a decrease in personal income, however, with budget cuts the state is facing, state colleges need more flexibility (to bring in more money) than in the past,” said Joan Ringel, a spokesperson for CCHE.

Across the nation, schools in New York and California saw dramatic tuition increases at around 34 percent, but students in Colorado should rest peacefully because it is unlikely schools here will come close to such high increases, Ringel said.

“My sense is that the commission will be more sympathetic in increasing tuition but the state’s financially conservative legislation is unlikely to increase tuition as much as schools in New York and California saw,” she said.

If CSU does see a tuition increase, which it will more likely happen, Ringel and Bomotti said, the final percentage increase and details will be announced in July after the legislature convenes.

That increase will most likely hit students coming from lower-income families the most, Ringel said.

“Studies show when tuition increases, enrollment decreases greater in low-income families,” she said. The decrease is not proportionate to the decrease in enrollment for students coming from middle and high-income families.

The commission hopes financial aid will help students afford tuition next year. According to Ringel, Colorado has about $91 million in financial aid for higher education. That number is high when compared to states such as Oregon, which has only $37 million available in financial aid.

Last year, the JBC submitted a 7.7 percent tuition increase for CSU but that number was turned down by the state legislature that writes the final bill that is submitted to the governor’s desk for approval.

A compromise resulted in a 6.2 percent increase to in-state tuition at CSU.

Last fall, CSU proposed a $900 tuition increase in addition to inflation for the next four years. No action has been taken on the proposal.

The commission is holding a special meeting this Thursday to discuss the financial status of the state’s colleges for next year. At the meeting, talks about tuition increases will take place.

The CSU administration has justified past tuition hikes by stating that CSU is behind its peer universities when it comes to tuition.

Other peer land-grant institutes such as Washington State University, Kansas State University and Oregon State University’s have in-state tuitions of $2,260, $1,208 and $3,576 respectively. CSU’s in-state tuition is $1, 717.

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