Proposed 2014-15 Colorado budget includes historic increase in higher education funding
Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education Chair Dick Kaufman presented Governor John Hickenlooper’s 2014-15 budget for higher education to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) on Thursday, Dec. 12.
The $100 million proposed increase would help support the state’s 31 public colleges and universities.
In a prepared statement, Garcia said, “This historical investment in higher education provided students with access to quality higher education opportunities.”
Colleges are funded through a combination of tuition and state general fund dollars, so a decrease in the state’s investment directly correlates with increases in tuition, according to Garcia.
Garcia and Kaufman tied the budget into the Master Plan goals from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, including increasing graduation, improving remediation and support services, reducing attainment gaps for minority and low income students, and restoring fiscal balance.
The JBC heard how the increase would be spent, and the potential outcomes they could expect to see.
The proposed $101.8 million increase — 15.5 percent — for higher education includes $60 million for institutional operating expenses. This request doubles the operating increase provided last year, and is intended to control tuition expenses. It also comes with an agreement from the institutions to limit tuition increases to less than 6 percent.
At the session, Representative Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, questioned that agreement, calling it a bait and switch, according to the Denver Post.
“To me this is nothing,” he said. “Relying on a handshake agreement for one year — which happens to be an election year — that seems to be a bit disingenuous.”
The remaining $40 million is allocated for new resources for student financial aid. $30 million is for need-based aid, $5 million is for college work-study programs and $5 million is to restore the merit scholarship program, to help keep high-achieving Colorado students in the state. This financial aid proposal represents a 42 percent increase, the largest in Colorado history.
Additionally, at the presentation, Garcia provided information on the Department of Higher Education’s Performance Funding Plan and public accountability measures, designed to encourage institutions to help students graduate on time, and provide Colorado with an educated workforce for a successful economy.
Hickenlooper presented the budget at the start of November, and now the six-member JBC will put together its own budget and plan to introduce it to the state Legislature by sometime in March. Colorado’s fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30, and the entire proposed budget totals $24.03 billion for next year.
The proposed budget also includes more than $258 million in new program funding for K-12 education. Amendment 66, which failed to pass in the November election, would have raised an additional $950 million in its first full year starting in 2015 to fund public schools in the state.
“Colorado is still recovering from the most destructive flooding in the state’s history,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “This budget frames what by necessity will have to be a collaborative effort that crosses party lines. We expect compromise from both sides that is based on common sense, which has no political affiliation.”
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