Feb 022006
 
Authors: James Baetke

For any student concerned with policy making on campus, it is crucial to understand what systems of hierarchy are in place for state institutions to follow.

Alec Jeffries, the Associated Students of CSU legislative director, said the state universities in Colorado run under a strict code of checks and balances, with politics attached to every student center, tuition increase and building improvement.

"Higher education is an industry," Jeffries said. "There are politics involved."

At the lowest level, CSU has its own policies and specific ways of conduct. ASCSU is the student governing body that helps shape student policy and the administration coordinates the daily happenings of the university, including budget and police services.

Some consider the Colorado Commission of Higher Education to be the leading authority on higher education. For tuition decisions and other stakes directly affecting CSU, including CSU-Pueblo, the Board of Governors handles these matters, but with close watch from the CCHE.

All nine state universities, including their subsidiaries, have a gubernatorial board of trustees or governors watching over them. The only exception lies with the University of Colorado, which elects its regents.

Then there are two education committees at the Capitol, dealing with mostly K-12 education, but also with higher education. For an education bill to pass out of the Capitol for the governor's approval, the bill must pass through committee, be approved by its respective chamber-the House or Senate-and then be sent to it's opposite chamber for the same process.

Edward Bowditch is the director of institutional planning and policy analysis for the CSU System. He said there is a vast system of checks in place before decisions are made official, such as a tuition increase.

"I do not think it is bureaucratic, there are just a lot of perspectives," Bowditch said, referring to higher education as a whole.

For a tuition increase from the Board of Governors to come to fruition, Bowditch said the proposal is sent to the CCHE, then forwarded to the state legislature-some times with or without comments-passes through the Joint Budget Committee with discussions with the Governor's office and then finds its final form in what is called a long bill.

"In Colorado, the legislature and governor are involved, so there will be significant discussion on tuition increase," Bowditch said.

Bowditch would not comment on whether he thought Owens had too much influence on higher education, but said the governor has "expressed himself clearly on tuition" and that the Board of Governors does not want to come to head with Owens.

The CCHE is an 11-member board confirmed by the Senate that acts as a central policy and coordinating board for Colorado public higher education.

The CCHE was established in 1965 by the legislature. In 1985, the legislature gave the Commission increased authority and specific directives through the passage of House Bill 1187.

"The CCHE is not constitutional, it is statutory," said Fort Collins legislator Bob Bacon. "My perception is the CCHE has the power to mandate regulations."

Gov. Bill Owens appoints CCHE commissioners and places course requirements on high schools in order to meet college-level proficiencies.

"There are those who think the CCHE has gone beyond the statutory limits," Bacon said, who puts himself in that category.

The Fort Collins Democrat, who is a member of the State Education Committee at the Capitol, says the CCHE does not have to approve any bill proposed in state legislature, but it is wise to get their backing because "we must consider the governor's veto."

Above all, Bacon and others say Owens is ultimately the person with the most influence in many of the large-scale decisions made for state universities. All of the overseeing boards are appointed by the governor, including the CCHE, and Owens has the ability to veto any legislation coming from state lawmakers.

"We hope we come with one unanimous voice," Jeffries said, referring to all Colorado higher education stakeholders.

James Baetke can be reached at regional@collegian.com

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