The University of Colorado made a proposal Wednesday to make tuition based on overall expenses and not just cost of attendance.
Robert Kohrman, director of university budgets at CU-Boulder, said the proposal does not change the way tuition is set at CU, but it will make a larger pool of money for lower- and middle-class students and families who apply for financial aid.
"Tuition is only 25 percent of the total cost (of college)," Kohrman said. "(Whoever writes the) check pays for transportation, room and board, food and fees. What parents really have to pay goes from (about) $4,000 to $16,000."
Kohrman said the proposal looks at the total cost of sending a student to any CU campus and makes adjustments to tuition based on that figure.
"Tuition should grow to focus on the total package, to look at what it really costs," Kohrman said. "Who pays for that is based on shared responsibility. The state should pay for some, the institution (through) financial aid should pay, parents based on income (should pay), and student loans should take a portion."
CU receives just enough money from tuition to pay for mandatory expenses, Kohrman said. This does not leave enough money for those students who need financial aid.
By raising tuition to cover more of the total cost of college, there will be a surplus of money, after paying mandatory expenses, to put toward financial aid.
"We're believing that the low tuition, low financial aid policy is not working," Kohrman said. "This is evident because Colorado student graduates are among the top states in debt. This shows us (students) are not given enough aid."
While students in higher income brackets will pay more out-of-pocket expenses, students who are eligible for financial aid based on family income will not pay these tuition increases, Kohrman said.
"This is not a new concept," Kohrman said. "The federal government now establishes financial aid based on income."
Keith Ickes, director of the Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, said there has never been a proposal like this at CSU.
"(CU's proposal) is a very different kind of approach to higher education," said Ickes, who is also the interim vice president for administrative services. "To my knowledge there has never been a discussion (about tuition) being based on income of ability to pay (at CSU)."
While such a proposal is prevalent in private institutions across the country, Ickes said there could be negative consequences if this proposal is passed.
If the tuition increases too much, a student who is considering attending CU can instead go to a private institution for the same amount of money, Ickes said.
"The general question would be if they significantly raise tuition for high-income students, does that change the mind (of a student) for where they want to go?" Ickes said.
Christie Leighton, a representative for Student Financial Services at CSU, said financial aid has always been based on family income.
"When a student applies for financial aid we determine eligibility based on the financial aid application and what it cost to attend CSU and living expenses," Leighton said. "We use that to determine the amount and what type of financial aid a student needs."
The most needy students will receive federal grants and work-study, while the less needy will receive loans. Every student qualifies for a loan, Leighton said.
The CU proposal will be brought to the CU Board of Regents for review on Feb. 23, but the final vote for tuition rate increases is not until June.
"The bottom line is improved academic quality and to put more financial aid in those lower- and middle-class families to make Colorado higher education affordable for everyone," Kohrman said.