Apr 272004
 
Authors: Chris Kampfe

After nearly three months of debate, the Colorado House of

Representatives and the Colorado Senate passed a bill Tuesday

creating college vouchers.

The nationally unprecedented College Opportunity Fund is finally

ready to be sent to the governor’s desk for the final signature,

and legislators are hoping it’s a one-way ticket.

The House was required to review the bill again Tuesday after

Gov. Bill Owens vetoed an 8 percent tuition increase. These

increases would be applicable only to schools that qualified for

enterprise status by the date set in the bill of July 1, and only

CU-Boulder would have met these requirements by that time, said

Jennifer Nettesheim, spokesperson for the Colorado Commission on

Higher Education.

“That’s a lot of extra money to allow CU to take in,” Nettesheim

said. “That’s not a very competitive rate compared to other

institutions.”

Owens described the raises as an “unreasonable burden on

students,” in the Denver Post. Last year Owens vetoed a 10 percent

increase but later approved a raise 6 percent.

Public universities in the state will feel some of this “burden”

as well, because in the bill, students will be allotted $2,400

towards public institutions and $1,200 towards private schools.

Because private schools do not currently receive the level of

funding public schools do, this will draw money out of public

higher education.

Although CSU may receive less state funding, President Larry

Penley is supportive of the voucher system on a philosophical level

of supporting education, public or private, as well as providing

universities an outlet to escape TABOR’s restrictions, said Gerard

Bomotti, vice president of Administrative Services at CSU.

The primary focus of the long bill is to help alleviate the

burden of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights on higher education. TABOR

puts limitations on tax increases for Colorado citizens, which as a

result has deprived higher education of funding as the economy has

witnessed a downturn in recent years. In the past three years,

higher education has weathered $150 million in cuts.

The bill attempts to ease the burden by providing higher

education with money via a voucher system for resident students,

rather then receiving money directly from the state General Fund.

Higher ed is under the restrictions of TABOR because it receives

this funding. If the voucher system is implemented, colleges and

universities are entitled to receive enterprise status. Enterprise

status is attained by universities keeping state funding lower than

specified levels, and in-turn tuition money is not subject to TABOR

restrictions.

Tuesday, the College Opportunity Fund, formally known as SB 189,

was passed on its third reading in the House, re-passed by the

Senate after the house amendments and Owens is expected to pass it,

according to the Denver Post.

“It sounds like Colorado will be the first state in the nation

to receive college vouchers,” Bomotti said. “That’s a historic

day.”

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