Nov 042010
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education Thursday approved a plan that gives CSU administrators the flexibility to increase tuition by 20 percent, or $1,050 a year, for in-state students in the coming fiscal year.

At this time, CSU’s request of the CCHE said the university isn’t looking to go beyond the traditional 9 percent increase for fiscal year 2011-12 and only went to the CCHE to ensure fiscal flexibility if the institution finds itself in dire straits.

“This was a great testimony to the confidence that the CCHE has in the CSU system,” said CSU Chancellor Joe Blake in a phone interview with the Collegian.

The plan calls for a 20 percent increase for full-time resident students in FY12, coming from closing what CSU calls the “credit-hour gap.”

To generate the $1,050 in increases, CSU will close what it calls the “credit-hour gap.” Students currently pay for their first 10 credit hours but under this plan, if CSU resorts to it, will be asked to pay for 12 –– the national average.

For students who take more than 10 but fewer than 18 credits a semester, CSU covers the bill for all credit hours beyond the first 10. For example, a student taking the average 15-credit course load essentially receives five credit hours free of charge. Any credits exceeding 18 come with additional fees.

Another segment of the possible flexibility plan will allow CSU to charge extra fees –– between $10 and $100 –– in certain high-cost courses, such as lab-based classes.

CSU estimates the additional course fees would generate between $4 million and $8 million.

After FY12, the university asked for the flexibility to pursue increases up to 12 percent between FY13 and FY16. But the CCHE documents note that the university, with the hopes of economic improvement, will not have to travel this road.

CSU’s administration spends nearly a year planning an institutional budget, with review and approval from the CSU System Board of Governors in June. The state budget projection, which is released in March 2011, is one of the major determiners of that decision.
The budgeting process, Blake said, is “thorough and complete.”

The plan would not affect student fees, which are debated and decided during the spring half of the budget year. If CSU decides to
pursue the tuition hike, out-of-state students won’t see the same effects because their tuition is not controlled by the state legislature. This means that institutions can raise non-resident tuition only as high as the market will allow.

CSU’s submission plans for a guaranteed loss of about $16.6 million –– the amount brought in by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, a temporary source of budget backfill –– and a tentative loss of an additional $11 million.

The university has accounted for the loss of federal stimulus because that source of money will officially dry up after the current fiscal year.

CSU saw state allocations drop by $30 million in 2009 and by another $45 million in 2010. For the current budget year, the $45 million lost in state funding was restored but federal stimulus money was cut nearly in half –– going from $30 million to $16.6 million.

Along with most other state institutions, CSU submitted its plan to the CCHE last month. The ability to do so came from Senate Bill 3, which allows university’s to make a case to the commission about raising tuition beyond the 9 percent cap.

Institutions were also asked to present a five-year performance plan outlining the future of accessibility, matriculation rates, instruction quality, student employment opportunities and operational efficiency.

If these are not met, the CCHE has the ability to rollback increases and prevent any further increases beyond the 9 percent.

In its approval of CSU’s plan, the CCHE requested the university provide “regular updates on actions taken to protect low- and middle-income students and underserved student populations,” according to the official document.

The particular areas of interest for the CCHE are:

  • More detailed information on the “tuition differentials,” or special course fees,
  • Date on the retention and matriculation of underserved students in correlation with the special course fees, and
  • All relevant data regarding the success rates of low- and middle-income students at CSU.

CU-Boulder submitted a request for 9.5 percent tuition flexibility to the CCHE, but has yet to hear back, said Ken McConnellogue, associate vice president for University Relations at CU-Boulder.

McConnellogue said the CU-Boulder request, if approved, is still only an option, not a certainty.

News Editor Kirsten Silveira can be reached at

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