Oct 042010
Authors: Kirsten Silveira and Allison Sylte

If the worst-case scenario hits CSU’s budget, in-state students could be looking at a 20 percent, or $1,050, tuition increase for next school year.

The increase only affects base tuition and, if approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, could help CSU offset a projected $16 million to $17 million cut in state funding.

Brad Bohlander, spokesman for the university, said the plan to increase tuition is, at this point, a “placeholder” until the state finalizes cuts to CSU’s allocation this spring.

To make up for the potential funding loss, CSU would close what Bohlander called the “credit hour gap.” This means that instead of paying for only 10 credits a semester students would be asked to pay for 12.

For students who take between 10 and 18 credits, CSU subsidizes the cost of all credit hours beyond the 10 students pay tuition for.
This means that students who take 15 credits essentially get five credits for free. Students who take more than 18 credits, however, must pay additional course fees.

“(The fee increases are) disturbing,” said Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins. “In order for this to go into effect, CSU will need to provide serious documentation for why it’s necessary.”

The university, along with a number of other state institutions, submitted its request to increase tuition to the CCHE Friday as required by Senate Bill 3. This mandates that schools submit a proposal for any tuition increase above the 9 percent state cap.

CU-Boulder students pay for 11 of their credits and Colorado School of Mines students pay for 15. The national average, Bohlander said, is 12.
The CCHE is slated to approve or deny requests later this year. Budget deliberation, Bohlander said, is a yearlong process. The CSU System Board of Governors receives a finalized copy of the university’s proposed budget in June for approval.

“We’ve tried to keep tuition as low as possible,” Bohlander said. “But we’ve already cut so much at this institution that more cuts could hurt the academic quality, and that’s what we’re trying to protect.”

Since fiscal year 2009, he added, CSU has seen about a $30 million loss in funding from the state. The cuts were seen administratively, with about 300 jobs lost.

CU-Boulder’s request to the CCHE asked for a 9.5 percent increase, which, in relation to current tuition, would come out to an additional $1,330 annually.

Universities have autonomy in deciding the tuition increases to out-of-state and graduate students and Bohlander said it is too early to determine those numbers as well as the increases to student fees.

“We are currently priced significantly lower than our peers out-of-state and our peers in-state,” Bohlander said. In 2009 and 2010 students saw a 9 percent increase in base tuition, which does not include student fee areas.

In addition, CSU’s current proposal asked for differential tuition plans for high-demand and high-cost programs to cover expenses.

For example, students in high-demand programs like lab-based science courses may be asked to pay more for those classes.

In the proposal for a tuition hike of more than 9 percent, the CCHE asked universities to include a five-year “performance plan,” outlining institutional improvements in access, graduation rates, quality of instruction, student employment opportunities and operational efficiency.

If these guidelines are not met in the time after approval, the CCHE has the power to roll back tuition and deny access to future tuition increases.

After university officials have more information about looming budget cuts, open forums will be held to explain the situation and garner input, Bohlander said.

News Editor Kirsten Silveira and Outdoor Life Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at news@collegian.com.

  • Friday CSU submitted a plan to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education requesting the flexibility to increase tuition 20 percent next year in extreme circumstances.
  • In-state students, if the CCHE approves the plan and the university instates it, would pay $1,050 more yearly.
  • The CCHE will announce its decision later this year.
  • Officials stressed that the plan is simply a “placeholder” until more is known about the state’s cutback in funding, which is currently projected at $16 million or $17 million.
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