Amid state funding shortfalls, CU raises tuition by up to 9 percent

By Staff

The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 8-to-1 on Monday to raise tuition by up to 9 percent on all four of its campuses starting this fall.

Regent Tom Lucero, R-Loveland, voted against the proposal. The board's vote came after the regents received a grim budget outlook from CU Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kelly Fox.

The decision will mean that tuition rates for the average in-state College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate student will go up by about $572 at CU-Boulder (9 percent) for a total of $7,018 per year; by $504 at UC Denver (9 percent) for a total of $6,216 per year; and by $420 at UCCS (7 percent) for a total of $6,270 per year.

Nonresident undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences will pay an extra 5 percent ($1,300) for a total of $28,000 per year at CU-Boulder; 2 percent ($384) for a total of $19,128 per year at UC Denver; and 2 percent ($320) for a total of $15,920 per year at UCCS.

"Raising tuition is never an easy decision. We know how difficult it can be for families to pay for college," said CU President Bruce D. Benson. "These tuition increases will help us continue to deliver high quality classroom instruction and student services, while striving to keep our commitment as a public university to remain accessible to all Colorado students."

The university is taking a three-prong approach when it comes to addressing deep cuts to its funding by the state of Colorado, including work force reductions, streamlined operations and greater efficiency, and looking for more revenue streams that go beyond tuition increases. Since July, Colorado has cut higher education funding by nearly 60 percent, which translates into a $2,600 drop in funding per in-state student.

Currently, only 3.3 percent of the university's total operating budget stems from taxpayer-supported state funding (excluding stimulus funding). Tuition is one of the few revenue streams left for public universities still reeling from the effects of the ongoing national recession, and the latest tuition increases will make up only 20 percent of the tens of millions of dollars in lost state funding CU has experienced over the past year.

Despite the tuition increases, CU remains more affordable than many of its peer institutions across the country. When other factors such as room and board, mandatory fees and books are taken into consideration, the total cost of attendance will rise by 4 percent at CU-Boulder; by 4.5 percent at UC Denver and 3.5 percent at UCCS, Fox said.

During the regents' discussion, Regent Joe Neguse, D-Boulder, introduced a motion to emphasize that CU would continue to strive to set aside more than the state-mandated 20 percent for financial aid. As recently as 2005, the university routinely contributed substantially more than 20 percent to its pool of financial aid funding for middle- and low-income students to help maintain affordability for Colorado students. Over the past few years, however, budget restraints exacerbated by deep state budget cuts have not allowed CU to go beyond the state mandate, Fox said.

Regent Monisha Merchant, D-Broomfield, seconded Neguse's motion, but it died on a 7-to-2 vote before the regents turned to the tuition increase proposal.

Board of Regents Chair Steve Bosley said unprecedented higher education funding challenges are forcing CU and other public universities around the country to explore every option when it comes to providing access to all students and keeping important academic and research programs in place.

"CU is a public university. We have to honor our commitment to Colorado citizens by providing access to students of all backgrounds, and by offering them a good education without compromising the quality of our programs and services," Bosley said. "We have world-class academic and research programs in place that are contributing to Colorado's economic, social and cultural well-being, and we can't risk losing them."

Lucero was vocal in his opposition to raising tuition at CU, recounting how he had put himself through college by waiting tables as an undergraduate.

"Looking at these numbers, I don't know that a kid waiting tables could afford to pay tuition," he told the board before casting the lone dissenting vote. "We're saddling the students with an unbelievable burden at this particular point in time."

Regent Steve Ludwig, D-Lone Tree, countered Lucero's comments with, "I think the era of a student putting him- or herself through college is coming to an end."

During the regents' long discussion about the proposal to raise tuition before the vote, Regent Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, vowed to not approve tuition increases next year.

"Folks, the people that we serve, our students here in the state, and our small businesses here in the state, are hurting. The proof is in the pudding," he said.

Regent Michael Carrigan, D-Denver, said, "To our students and their families, we have to ask you to share the burden and share the pain of the state's cuts, and we ask you to join us in the fight, and the state's leaders, to demand that they fully invest in our colleges and universities."