May 032004
 
Authors: Chris Kampfe, Kyle Endres

Four-year college students could pay an unchanging tuition

amount every year under a bill passed by the state legislature on

Monday.

House Bill 1207, barring Gov. Bill Owens’ veto, will allow

students to sign a contract upon admission to state

higher-education institutions that would grant them a fixed-tuition

rate if they promise to graduate in a certain amount of time.

“It’s to try to even out price increases and tuition increases

so a family can plan their budget and say we know that for the next

four years, ‘We’ve got to come up with this amount of money,'” said

Rick O’Donnell, executive director of the Colorado Commission on

Higher Education.

The fixed rate would be strictly optional for students.

“In my own opinion, in the way I’ve seen the bill most recently,

though it hasn’t passed yet, it makes it optional to offer these

fixed-tuition contracts to students, and it makes it optional for

students to participate,” said Gerard Bomotti, vice president for

Administrative Services.

The bill was proposed by Rep. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and

co-drafted with Ryan McMaken, executive director of the Colorado

Student Association.

McMaken said he believes state universities support the

idea.

“It isn’t a mandate,” McMaken said. “It’s something they wanted

to do in the past.”

Bomotti is wary of implementing such contracts in unpredictable

economic times.

“An institution can best offer a fixed-tuition program over a

four-year period if the environment is more stable,” Bomotti said.

“Now, the financial environment in Colorado is not stable.”

The bill’s implementation is contingent on the passage of the

College Opportunity Fund, which is also awaiting Owens’ approval.

This bill would grant stipends, or vouchers, to in-state students

for use at state universities, rather than universities receiving

funding directly from the state.

Some stipend supporters say the College Opportunity Fund

provides the opportunity for universities to attain enterprise

status, which would give them more financial flexibility.

Owens will approve the bill this month, O’Donnell said.

He said the fixed-tuition rate would offer students and families

more choices in paying for college.

“Not every student or family’s going to want it, but it was an

option that the institutions saw they could offer that some

students would maybe find (is) an easier way to be able manage the

cost of college,” he said.

But Sen. Peggy Reeves, D-Larimer County, agrees with Bomotti

that the fixed-tuition contract bill’s timing is questionable.

“I think that we’re in a great state of flux within higher

education right now,” she said. “I think we need to implement the

college-opportunity vouchers and understand how that mechanism

works and how that shakedown works before we implement this

proposal.”

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