Dec 052011
 
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Financial aid programs supporting Colorado’s low- to middle-income college students may soon be defunded to the tune of $30 million.

Gov. Hickenlooper suggested the cuts in his fiscal year 2012-2013 budget proposal, which was unveiled in early November. The budget will take effect July 2012, if approved by the state’s congressional leaders.

“The budget reflects the ongoing work of closing the state’s structural budget gap and funding the demands of numerous federal and state constitutional requirements,” the Democratic governor said in a letter to Sen. Mary Hodge, D-25, who chairs the state senate’s joint budget committee.

Work-study, a program that supports approximately 1,830 students at CSU with $2,500 awards, stands to lose $5.5 million out of its overall $16.6 million allocation.

The state’s $74.9 million fund for need-based financial aid would see a $24.6 million cut.

Documents accompanying Hickenlooper’s budget proposal said that these monetary measures could result in 22,500 fewer students across Colorado receiving awards or receiving lesser awards.

“We’re talking about a pretty substantial hit to a program (work-study) that really has very positive benefits,” said Frank Waterous, a senior policy analyst for the Bell Policy Center, a Denver-based think tank.

Writing for Bell, Waterous composed a response to Hickenlooper’s budget proposal soon after he unveiled it, explaining he was concerned over his plan to cut financial aid programs supporting Colorado’s college students in need.

Work-study, he said, plays an important role in how a college student pays for his or her education, while also funding some award-winners’ research efforts on behalf of their school.

“When students work on campus, they’re more likely to stay in school and complete their degrees, too,” Waterous said, adding that he knows it’s not just institutions of higher education that are facing tough times in the nation’s economic downturn.

“Every sector of our state government has been and continues to be impacted by the reduced general funds that are available,” he said.

Chad Marturano, director of legislative affairs and spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, expanded.

“Other programs within the state budget are crowding out higher education because of caseload growth associated with statuary or constitutional requirements,” he said, citing Medicaid as an example of an increasingly costly obligation.

And when the state has to cut from somewhere in order to balance the budget, Marturano said state colleges and universities may be easy targets.

“Higher education is one of the few discretionary places in the state’s budget.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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