Penley defends increase

 Uncategorized
May 032007
 
Authors: Vimal Patel, Brandon Lowrey

The proposed 5 percent tuition increase on CSU students next year would pay for faculty salary increases, 45 new faculty positions and $2 million in need- and merit-based aid.

President Larry Penley told faculty members at a meeting Thursday to get over a long-held inferiority complex that seems to have gripped the campus for years – this is the beginning of a road to equity with other state universities.

CSU faculty and administrators must “eschew the mentality of scarcity that says CSU is somehow second-class,” Penley said during a speech riddled with rousing boasts of the university’s achievements.

He also touched on Colorado’s historic reluctance to spend tax dollars, resulting in laws like the restrictive Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the state’s ranking as dead last in the nation in terms of higher education spending.

“In the end, Colorado has got to ask itself if it is willing to pay for higher education,” he said.

The CSU budget’s draft proposal hasn’t been finalized, but if approved, in-state students would pay an additional $287 a semester to attend CSU. Out-of-state students would pay an extra $1,243.

“It’s sad that the students have to be the ones who have to pay,” said Katie Gleeson, the newly minted ASCSU president. “But ultimately, we need to value the prestige of our degree and this is a good way to start.”

Penley and administrators have argued that the university is strapped for cash and in desperate need of a funding infusion.

In late March, CSU tried to add an amendment to the state’s budget bill, a move that would have allowed the university to spend an additional $34 million while passing the bill onto students.

The amendment failed in the Senate 18-15, and Penley faced criticized from politicians and student leaders for allegedly trying to sneak the amendment in at the last minute without student input.

The university planned to get the extra cash by closing the so-called credit gap and charging students for up to 12 credits rather than the current nine-unit ceiling.

Under the current proposal, the university would incrementally close the credit gap, starting with a 10-credit ceiling for the 2007-08 academic year.

“We were just happy they didn’t do it all at once because of the huge tuition costs associated with it,” said Luke Ragland, director of Legislative Affairs for ASCSU. “We’re absolutely not opposed to tuition increases in general. We think they should be responsible. Preliminarily, it looks appropriate.”

The draft proposal still has to be finalized and sent to the board of governors for approval in June.

Regardless of opinions on tuition, pundits, administrators and student leaders agree that the state’s funding picture for higher education isn’t rosy.

John Straayer, a CSU political science professor, said that despite voters’ approval of Referendum C – which allowed the state to spend an additional $3.7 billion, including on higher education – in November, several other “constitutional issues” continue to plague higher education funding.

A state spending limit prohibits overall general fund spending to no more than 6 percent of the previous year’s spending.

So it’s been difficult for higher education to recover from the budget crunch earlier this decade, especially when it’s forced to compete with other essential state services such as healthcare, roads and transportation, Straayer said.

“The thing we don’t have going for us is the constitutional mess,” he said. “The thing this university has going for it is that the governor, virtually all the legislators and the business community all recognize the critical importance of CSU and all of higher education to the future of the state.”

Staff writers Vimal Patel and Brandon Lowrey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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