State education panel approves tuition plan for Mesa State College

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education unanimously adopted a Mesa State College tuition plan Thursday, two months after it was rebuffed by the head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The plan permits the college to increase tuition by more than 9 percent year-over-year in any school year between 2011–12 and 2015–16. The college does not plan to increase tuition by more than 9 percent during that time if state higher education funding does not decrease more than 10 percent, Mesa State Vice President of Finance Pat Doyle told commissioners Thursday in Boulder. If circumstances change, the college asked in its plan for permission to increase tuition by an additional 0.49 percent for each 1 percent drop in state funding beyond a 10 percent decline.

Doyle said the college’s board of trustees is committed to keeping tuition inflation down.

“We would first and foremost try to reduce operations costs” before increasing tuition, Doyle said.

The plan was one of many submitted by Colorado colleges and universities in accordance with Senate Bill 3, which asked schools to submit five-year plans for remaining accessible to students if tuition increased more than 9 percent. Colorado Department of Higher Education Executive Director Rico Munn originally disliked Mesa State’s plan because it did not specify how much over 9 percent it planned to go in the next few years or if it would go above 9 percent at all.

Mesa State President Tim Foster said the plan persevered because the past two months allowed commissioners to get past “form” and move on to “substance.”

Foster said he doesn’t believe the school will increase tuition more than 9 percent next year because he’s optimistic the state will spend $555 million on colleges and universities, the amount of current state funding minus American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

“Like anything, we’ll see what changes. Five years is a really long time in public finance,” Foster said.

Commissioners also approved adoption of a strategic plan created by the Higher Education Strategic Planning Subcommittee and set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, for creation of a higher education master plan that will be based on the strategic plan. The master plan will reflect four goals outlined in the strategic plan: affordability, access, quality and accountability at colleges.

The plan upset some college presidents, including Foster, by asking for changes in college governance and giving more authority to the CCHE. Enhancing the responsibility of the commission remains in the plan, but the plan also asks for the current governance structure at colleges to remain intact.


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