Foster uses tuition rally to make case

Nick Lopez, vice president of the Mesa State College Associated Student Government, appeals to the crowd during a rally to draw attention to state cuts in funding for higher education Wednesday at the Maverick Pavillion.

Tuition increases aren’t the only way to keep college coffers at least semi-full amidst state budget cuts, Mesa State College President Tim Foster said Wednesday at a student-led rally for higher-education funding at the college.

“Talks about flexibility have often been about tuition flexibility. We believe there are other forms of flexibility,” Foster said.

Foster and presidents from colleges around Colorado hoped to make operations more flexible by writing a list of suggestions for a higher-education flexibility bill for this session of the Legislature. But Colorado Department of Higher Education Executive Director Rico Munn has said no to many of the presidents’ proposals, Foster said.

“At a certain point, you have to say, ‘Guys, we’ve got a flexibility bill with no flexibility,’” he said after the rally.

The bill includes language allowing institutions to decide financial-aid eligibility requirements and create their own fiscal rules. But it does not include some proposals from the presidents’ list, such as how much colleges can cut down on the number of financial reports they must submit to the state, or allowing colleges to buy furniture and other items from places with the best price, rather than the Colorado Department of Corrections, which is the current practice.

The bill is in the Senate Education Committee and may look different before House and Senate members vote on it.

Associated Student Government members who organized Wednesday’s rally said the group supports more flexibility in higher education operations and reporting. Associated Student Government member Ben Guska said he’s more interested in cost-saving measures than tuition increases during tough times for the state budget.

“There would be a point where tuition would be too much for me” to stay in school, Guska said, but he was not sure where that point is.

Associated Student Government President Ryan Hendershot said the group will host one or two forums before spring break in early March and one or two more after spring break, asking students for suggestions to help keep college affordable for future students. The suggestions will go to the governor in March.

Wednesday’s rally was one of several staged at campuses across the state through a collective of student government organizations. The student groups will convene on the Capitol steps for a larger rally March 3.


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