DENVER - Despite withering criticism from Gov. Bill Owens, the University of Colorado Board of Regents approved a 20 percent increase in tuition for most in-state students Thursday, saying it was their only choice in the face of declining state funding.The decision will cut spending on personnel, maintenance and other areas by more than $5 million. Two regents asked administrators to identify programs that could be jettisoned if budget problems persist."It's a very sad day for Colorado when the flagship university in the state is struggling so much for funds," Regent Pat Hayes said. "We all have to draw public attention to it."Rod Muth, head of the faculty council, said the plan was necessary and said the governor's criticism was unfounded because state funding has plummeted under Owens' administration."It would have been easy to cave in, but catastrophe for the near-term future of CU," he told the regents.Muth warned against further cuts, saying they could "condemn higher education in Colorado to a long slide into mediocrity."The vote was 8-1. Regent Tom Lucero said his dissenting vote was more about the process of developing CU's 2005-06 budget than the $1.9 billion plan itself.The regents had earlier approved a 28 percent across-the-board tuition increase for in-state students, prompting sharp criticism from the Republican governor and the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee.Owens accused regents of putting the school out of reach for middle-class students and violating an agreement with state lawmakers. Rick O'Donnell, executive director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, said regents were protecting their "bloated bureaucracy" at the expense of students.Owens also criticized the revised 15 percent to 20 percent increase and threatened to bring the issue up in the next session of the Legislature, in January 2006. In a letter to the regents, Owens took a swipe at outgoing CU President Elizabeth Hoffman, saying, "We look forward to working with the new administration at CU to put the needs of Colorado students first."Hoffman said she was disappointed that Owens attacked her personally, but said she didn't want to speculate on his reasons. Even with the tuition increases, she said in-state rates are $2,000 to $3,000 lower than resident rates in other states."It's been really hard for me to tell what it's actually been about," she said. Former Sen. Hank Brown will become CU's president on Aug. 1.Under the new budget, which goes into effect Friday, undergraduate in-state students in arts and sciences programs will see tuition increases of 15 percent to 20 percent. Those students - about 21,200 of them across CU's four campuses - make up about 60 percent of the student body. Freshmen and sophomores in that group will pay $4,002; juniors and seniors will pay $4,176.
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