CMU, CU leaders press for more state funds

DENVER — The state’s colleges and universities have hung in as long as they could in trying to keep tuition costs down for students, two university presidents told a Senate panel Wednesday.

But if state officials want them to continue to keep those costs down, they need to invest more in higher education, Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster and University of Colorado President Bruce Benson told the Senate Education Committee.

The two were at the Capitol with Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who also is executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, testifying in favor of SB1.

That’s the measure that would increase by $101 million the state aid the Legislature gives to the 28 public colleges and universities in Colorado.

In exchange, the schools have agreed to lowering the cap on annual tuition hikes from 9 percent to 6 percent, though some schools have never gone above that level.

“We’ve all hung in there as tight as we can,” Foster said of the 26 percent decline in state aid over the past three years. “We’ve been under 5 percent not just for tuition, but tuition and fees for each of the last three years. But I will tell you, that is not a simple choice.”

Garcia argued that the schools should see increased funding because the state is losing ground when it comes to a workforce that will meet the needs of the growing economy.

“Nationally, we know that the next 10 years more and more jobs will require a college education,” Garcia told the seven-member committee, which hasn’t yet voted on the bill. “About 28 percent of jobs in 1973 were held by people with a post-secondary education. Now it’s more like 60 percent.”

Garcia said the latest state employment figures show that about 13.5 percent of those still seeking jobs have no college degrees. The unemployment rate among those who do is about 4 percent, he said.

The committee is expected to vote on the bill in the next few days.


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