You have to wonder how the Ph.D.’s in charge at the University of Colorado thought in-state tuition hikes of up to 28 percent would pass the political sanity test once the news hit.
They didn’t and Gov. Owens has been whipping up on the CU top buffaloes ever since. Rightfully so. The tuition hikes are unconscionable and hardly justified by bleatings that in-state tuition ranks low on the scale of public universities so they should be raised.
CU is surely in a fiscal bind, but it’s not in a flattering position that gains it much sympathy. The school has been way less than forthcoming in dealing with its football scandals and the loose spending habits of the CU Foundation.
It’s both embarrassing and frustrating for those of us who want CU to be both the pride of the state and a coveted place to send our children.
There’s a history to this and a potential solution on the Nov. 1 ballot.
Once upon a time, the citizens of Colorado could anticipate a good deal for their children, reasonable tuition for state schools. It was a legacy formed over time by many governors and Legislatures.
As Owens said in an interview just before the last legislative session, good tuition rates resulted from a pact between the state and the schools that in good years, state money would buy down tuition.
Then came the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 1992. All was fine until the dot-com bust and the Colorado recession of the last several years. Now that times are better, TABOR will not let the Legislature help higher education catch up.
TABOR holds down spending to limited amounts over the previous year, no matter that the previous year saw drastic budget cuts.
Referendum C on the Nov. 1 ballot would loosen TABOR’s restraints for five years and allow the state to keep collected tax revenues it otherwise would have to refund to us. Public education would receive some of the relief.
Referendum C also loosens the purse strings for Referendum D, which allows bonding for state road projects, including the four-laning of Highway 9 between Farmer’s Korner and Breckenridge.
We urge public support for both measures, even at this early stage. The issues are critical and complex and the public would do well to learn them.
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