Apr 022009
Authors: Elyse Jarvis

The Associated Students of CSU will help lead a protest at the state Capitol Monday in response to this week’s proposal by Colorado legislators that $300 million be cut from next year’s budget for higher education and universities be given heightened leeway to raise tuition dollars.

Taylor Smoot, student government president, told the Collegian that ASCSU will be taking a van and arranging a carpooling system for students interested in rallying in Denver.

Student government officials and interested students are to meet in the ASCSU office, located on the first level of the Lory Student Center, at 8 a.m. Monday for an 8:30 a.m. departure.

Smoot said that students from universities across the state — including CSU-Pueblo, CU-Boulder and CU-Denver, the University of Northern Colorado, Mesa State University, Metro State University and Fort Lewis College — will attend the protest.

In an effort to balance the state’s budget, Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee announced Wednesday that it will cut state funding for higher education funding in half, attempting to divert money from a worker’s compensation fund to fill in the gap instead.

Additionally, the JBC approved giving universities a heightened spending authority, raising the tuition cap from 6.5 percent to 9 percent. This would effectively give state schools free reign to raise tuition to “where they feel the market will bear,” said Don Marostica, Larimer County’s JBC representative, on Wednesday.

Interim CSU President Tony Frank said Friday that only raising tuition to fill in the funding gap at CSU — which translates to half of the $130 million it previously received, he said — would be bad educational policy.

“The challenge with the $300 million is that that number is so large that tuition almost becomes a moot point,” he said.

“I don’t think you can raise tuition that rapidly that fast without driving down your enrollment.”

Frank said the university is hoping the legislature will reverse its decision, instead spreading cuts across various avenues that receive state money rather than just cutting from higher education.

The proposal, in the form of the Long Bill, must still go through voting procedures in the state House and Senate before being given a final yes or no by Gov. Bill Ritter.

ASCSU will attend the Monday caucus, where the bill will be undergoing revisions in the state House, before leading a protest at 11 a.m.

“We’re going to be talking to legislators face-to-face,” Smoot said, explaining that legislators need to “look for other places to cut.”

If Ritter approves the cuts, Frank said, CSU will require time to scramble to put “something on the ballot” this fall to raise revenue.

Should a potential ballot measure fail by vote, Frank said the university will need time to determine by how much tuition can be raised and what programs will need to be cut.

“(Stimulus money and backfilling) buys you time, but this ought to cause all of us in higher ed to say ‘Okay, we’ve got a ticking clock now; how are we going to fix this long term?'” he said.

News Managing Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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