Jun 152010
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

To compensate for a shortfall in state funding, Colorado universities have been given the option to pass the burden to students and parents through massive tuition hikes, but CSU officials say they won’t travel that road lightly.

CSU spokesman Brad Bohlander said that, while it’s too soon to predict what the university budget will look like for the 2011-2012 school year, the only time administration would seek to raise tuition more than the cap, which allows a raise of 9 percent annually, would be under “drastic circumstances.”

State officials said starting July 1, schools have the option to prepare tuition increase proposals for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education that proves a need for more tuition dollars and a plan that keeps school affordable for everyone.

To gain the commission’s approval, universities will need to provide a five-year “performance plan,” which outlines improvements in:

Graduation rates,
Student employment opportunities,
Quality of campus services,
Quality of instruction, and
Operational efficiency.

If these qualifications aren’t met, tuition will be rolled back and the institution will be denied access to increases for the following year.

Between 1981 and 1984, when CSU had the final say on tuition matters, it raised tuition 87.24 percent.

CSU alumnus Matt Worthington, who worked closely with the bill during his time as student government director of Legislative Affairs said the legislation allows CSU to “creep” toward a private model.

“I feel pretty lucky that I’ve graduated,” Worthington said.

CSU, he said, played an active role in pushing for amendments that would put a 90-day limit on the approval process and allow for universities to make a second proposal if denied an increase the first time.

Evan Dreyer, spokesman for governor Bill Ritter, said, while the bill wasn’t controversial at the Capitol because it was backed by both parties and education stakeholders, he is confident that the universities can only raise tuition as high as “the market will allow.”

Each institution, Dreyer said, would need to define its own affordability and recruit a student to vote on the governing board for budget matters.

“It became very clear that we needed a short term strategy, Senate Bill 3 is that strategy,” Dreyer said, adding that affordability is Ritters no. 1 priority.

John Karakoulakis, director of Legislative Affairs for the commission, said his offices are still working on a timeline for the submission and approval process and will have a meeting on June 17.

_Assistant News Editor Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com. _

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