Colo. gov. candidates: new higher ed model needed

LOVELAND — The state needs to find new ways to fund higher education because of deep cuts caused by the recession, the three gubernatorial candidates told a coalition of northern Colorado leaders.

Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo said more reliance on philanthropists, better use of classrooms and higher tuition may be needed.

The three candidates differed over promoting renewable energy over Colorado’s abundant natural gas resources, with Hickenlooper saying the state should tap its renewable energy resources and Maes and Tancredo saying it should be market driven.

Tancredo, who ran the regional U.S. Department of Education office under President Reagan, said the old model for higher education, where students troop to classrooms that are underused, is outmoded.

“We have to think differently about the entire system because we can’t afford this one anymore,” he said.

He said students can learn over the Internet and find better uses for the classrooms.

Hickenlooper said Denver relies more on philanthropy to provide higher education, and if the state can improve educational opportunities, colleges and universities could charge more tuition. Maes said if the state can reduce regulation and provide more jobs, more money will flow to education.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a stopgap measure to save higher education, giving Colorado colleges more flexibility to set tuition rates.

Lawmakers say the legislation was necessary because the state plans to cut college funding by $300 million next year to ease a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit.

Colleges were notified they should plan for up to a 50 percent cut next year in state funding.

The tuition flexibility bill allows governing boards to increase tuition up to 9 percent per year for the next six years, starting in July 2011. Larger increases would have to be approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Hickenlooper said Ritter has done a good job promoting renewable energy. He said government incentives have provided money for innovation for such projects as the Internet, and Colorado has the wind and solar resources to support a thriving new industry.

“We’d be fools to turn our backs on that,” he said.

Maes said the government should get out of the way and let the private markets work, including biomass.

“If it can’t compete, it may not belong at the table. If wind can’t compete, it may not belong at the table,” he said.


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