Aug 212005
 
Authors: Lila Hickey

"Education costs money, but then, so does ignorance."

Unfortunately for CSU students, the price of sidestepping ignorance is according, British statistician Sir Claus Moser, increasing. Tuition and fees have increased 15 percent from the 2004-2005 to 2005-2006 school years, largely due to a lack of state funding for universities in Colorado.

Colorado higher education has been in a financial crunch in recent years because of Amendment 23 and the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). Amendment 23 mandates that the state annually increase money spent on K-12 education, while TABOR forces the state to refund surplus tax revenues. With an increasing percentage of the state budget given to secondary education, a variety of other programs that depend on government funding – including CSU – have been left out in the cold.

In response, the university was forced to raise tuition and create various student fees to compensate for the steady loss of state funding over the last three years.

"The tuition for the majority of students went up 15 percent, which is $441," explained Courtney Healey (CQ)cm, president of the Associated Students of CSU.

Additionally, university administration introduced class-specific fees for the Colleges of Business and Engineering and the College of Computer Science, chosen because of their high operating cost and popularity.

"One of our computer labs upstairs needed revitalization," said Dale Grit (CQ)cm, associate chair of the computer science department. "The computers were four years old and that's too old."

Additional plans for the fee revenues include the creation of a business minor and a new applied computer science degree, while the engineering college may be able to purchase new equipment, said Keith Ickes (CQ)cm, vice president for administrative services.

But for students, the bottom line is the cost of attendance – and it's rising.

"I just think this hike in tuition is going to exclude kids who are trying to do this on their own," said Nicole Griffith (CQ)cm, a junior environmental health major who receives financial aid. This year she has student loans, so the increase concerns her.

"Spending money that isn't mine always concerns me," she said.

Fortunately, state law requires the university to earmark 20 percent of resident undergraduate tuition, exceeding inflation, for student financial aid. Sandy Calhoun (CQ)cm, the director of student financial services, said the university has offered an additional $2 million of financial aid this year. Calhoun encouraged students who cannot afford the increase to visit Student Financial Services for suggestions.

Katie Clausen (CQ)cm, president of ASCSU last year sympathized with financially strapped students, but insisted the increases were necessary.

"Either we pay or the doors close," she told ASCSU during an October 2004 meeting.

Current ASCSU Vice President Jon Muller (CQ)cm agreed the measures were necessary, but reminded students of the reason for the increase.

"Of course it's going to be tough," he said. "But (students) need to understand this is a direct result of the position the state has put us in."

After three years of declining state funding, CSU administrators are only now taking steps to increase tuition, part of the reason this year's increase is so large.

"We're in a position where we've not been able to bring tuition up gradually. We've been held down, held down, held down and now all of a sudden we're kind of spiking up there because we're trying to catch up," Ickes said.

In fact, CSU was held down – by the state government. In past years, due to Governor Bill Owens' stance that Colorado must remain a "low-tuition" state, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) and the Joint Budget committee have rejected proposals attempt by CSU's administrators to increase tuition revenue. The CCHE mandated low tuition percentage increases, and also refused to let CSU increase the number of credits required for full-time enrollment, despite allowing the same process to occur at the University of Colorado – Boulder, Ickes said.

Although CSU has finally been allowed to significantly increase tuition, the limitation the state governments placed on CSU for the past three years still rankles.

"When everyone else is just getting a deal – to not get the deal is not very satisfying," Ickes said.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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