Members of the CSU student government are crying foul against university administration, charging them with trying to sneak a tuition increase into the state budget in a proverbial shell game that would have raised tuition at least 43 percent.
In a late-night emergency session Wednesday, the Associated Students of CSU voiced stern opposition with President Larry Penley, the administration and seven lobbyists who tried to persuade state lawmakers to change the full-time student tuition assessment from nine credits to 12.
State lawmakers ultimately killed the amendment by a one-vote margin, but if passed the measure would have resulted in major increases to the amount of tuition paid for by full-time students.
ASCSU President Jason Green said he was surprised Tuesday night when ASCSU Legislative Affairs Director Luke Ragland alerted him that a last-minute amendment was added to the state’s proposed budget; commonly know as the Long Bill.
“We were not included in this process, and we don’t appreciate that,” Green said. “We are concerned with how this was all brought about without ASCSU’s stamp of approval.”
Green said he supports tuition increases, but the process in which this proposed increase took place was inexcusable.
“Had students not been up there to tell us this (amendment) was big, there would have been no other attempt to let students or ASCSU know,” Green said.
Ragland, who is credited with lobbying strongly against the amendment, said that the proposed measure was not technically a tuition increase, but a requirement for students to buy more credit hours.
“The proposed amendment would have required students to purchase more credit hours to become a full-time student,” Ragland said. “They are not trying to increase the per-credit-hour rate.”
Political semantics aside, CSU political science professor John Straayer said the amendment was a tuition increase no matter how it was written and said it is highly unusual for entities to come in later and want to amend the Long Bill in such a “drastic and risky” way.
“I am absolutely mystified and troubled by the strategy of this administration,” Straayer said. “It’s a substantial increase in tuition coupled with a redistribution of financial aid.”
Straayer said he cannot grasp why administration officials did not go through some of the checks and balances in place to alert students and some faculty of their intentions.
“The university is perusing admirable goals through a process that I find extraordinary and very troubling,” Straayer said.
In Resolution 3621, which stated that the proposal was “too drastic for a single-year increase,” ASCSU members charge that Amendment 18 was submitted hours before the submission deadline for amendments to the bill Tuesday, without any communication to the student body.
The government body also maintained in the resolution that the “university’s institutional health has been compromised” and the amendment has “created a feeling of distrust and disrespect between the administration and student body.”
Brad Bohlander, a CSU spokesman, said no absolute decisions have been made in regards to any kind of tuition or credit gap change.
“What the university is seeking is essentially spending authority,” Bohlander said. “We are looking for approval to pursue different avenues of funding for the future.”
All changes to funding in the CSU system must be approved by the CSU Board of Governors, Bohlander said.
State Rep. John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) told the Collegian Wednesday that if the amended bill made it to the House, he would have opposed it.
“This process would have been better served if the administration involved the students,” Kefalas said. “That’s a cause for alarm, and the students should resist that.”
Associate news managing editor J. David McSwane contributed to this report. City editor James Baetke can be reached at email@example.com.