Lawmakers rebuff Owens on CU tuition; CSU approves its own hike |

Lawmakers rebuff Owens on CU tuition; CSU approves its own hike

DENVER ” Students at the state’s two largest universities are facing hefty tuition hikes next fall after an attempt to block a 28 percent increase at CU failed on Wednesday and Colorado State approved a 15 percent jump of its own.

Lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee rebuffed Gov. Bill Owens’ request that they cut CU’s spending authority by $13.8 million to prevent administrators from spending any of the money from the tuition increase.

“It’s not something we have the authority to do,” said Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland, vice chairman of the committee. “The governor should know that.”

Meanwhile, the CSU Board of Governors voted to raise tuition for in-state undergraduate students at the Fort Collins campus by $441 a year. Graduate students and out-of-state students also face increases.

“The tuition increase is certainly larger than the past ones, but it does allow for real improvements in quality,” CSU President Larry Penley said.

Penley said the increase will help counteract several years of reduced revenue and budget cuts. The school’s plans include adding 10 faculty positions and five police officers and expand programs for female, minority and disabled students.

It is the first double-digit tuition increase at CSU in more than a decade, he said.

Owens has said the CU increase violates an understanding between the university and state officials and will make the school too expensive for middle class students who aren’t eligible for financial aid.

“For middle class Colorado families, the 28 percent CU tuition hike (approximately $1,000) is more than the cost of a month of day care, two car payments or a mortgage payment,” Owens said in an “open letter” released Tuesday.

“I do not believe this is in Colorado’s best interests,” he said.

It was unclear whether Owens would try another approach. His spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said the governor has no plans to call a special session of the Legislature in hopes of countering the increase.

Hopkins said Owens supported the CSU increase because the university increased tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

“CSU absolutely lived up to the terms of the agreement,” he said.

Mike Hesse, CU’s vice president for institutional relations, said the university is considering ways to get financial aid to middle-class students.

“We are looking at all models to make sure they are broadly representative of all financial aspects and ethnic backgrounds,” Hesse said.

Plant said the financial squeeze on middle-class students points to the need for voters to approve a measure on the November ballot asking them to give up $3.1 billion in tax surplus refunds over the next five years. If voters approve, lawmakers will consider a plan to increase aid to in-state students, he said.

Hesse said he doubted CU would roll back tuition hikes over the past two years, even if voters approve the plan.

“The best we can hope for is to keep state aid at a consistent level,” Hesse said.

The school’s Board of Regents last week defended its decision to raise tuition, citing five years of stagnant or declining public funding and high out-of-state tuition that is driving students away.

Owens blamed CU’s declining out-of-state enrollment on bad publicity from a football recruiting scandal and the case of Professor Ward Churchill, whose essay comparing some Sept. 11 victims to Nazis prompted an ethics investigation into his scholarship.

CU officials said a poll of out-of-state students who were admitted but chose not to attend showed finances were their chief concern.

Jon Donaldson, principal at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton, said the universities aren’t giving students much time to prepare for the increases. Most will find a way, but others will opt for less expensive schools, he said.

“I think psychologically some kids are just going to say, ‘I can’t do that,”‘ he said.

A look at tuition plans at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. Increases would take effect this fall.

University of Colorado:

“CU plans to increase in-state tuition by up to 28 percent.

“The increase in out-of-state tuition would be limited to 6 percent.

“CU says its tuition would still be about $1,500 below that of peer universities.

“The increase will help offset five years of stagnant or declining public funding while limiting out-of-state increases that are driving students away, CU says.

Colorado State University:

“In-state undergraduate students at CSU-Fort Collins will pay 15 percent more, or an extra $441 a year; in-state graduate students will pay 9 percent more, or an extra $304 a year.

“Out-of-state undergraduates at Fort Collins will pay an extra $814 a year; out-of-state graduate students would pay an extra $849 a year.

“In-state undergraduate and graduate students at CSU-Pueblo will pay 15 percent more, or an extra $379 a year. Out-of-state tuition did not rise.

“Among other things, CSU plans to add 10 new faculty and five police officers, expand programs for female, minority and disabled students, and increase funding for the Center for Life Sciences honors program and for the graduate school at Fort Collins.

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