Benson: State ‘stepping up’ with plan to boost higher ed funding by $100 million

President speaks in support of Senate Bill 1 at committee hearing

In this photo from Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia’s (center) Twitter feed, he’s joined by CU President Bruce Benson, left, and Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster at Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Education Committee. All three wore logo pins for CU and Colorado Mesa.

CU President Bruce Benson on Wednesday spoke in support of Senate Bill 1, the state’s intent to increase higher education funding by $100 million.

Benson joined Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster as the first to speak on the bill at a hearing of the Senate Education Committee.

“We are doing a lot to help ourselves, but the state funding remains critical to us,” Benson told the committee, which he also thanked for supporting the bill.

The increase began as a request of Gov. John Hickenlooper in his proposed budget, then was made into a separate bill by the Legislature. Of the $100 million increase, $60 million would go toward institutions’ operating costs; the remaining $40 million would be earmarked for student financial aid. CU’s share of the $60 million in operating costs would be $16.5 million, or an 11 percent increase over last year.

Garcia called the $100 million proposed increase “a historic investment in higher education.”

“It will make higher education more accessible, which is good for the economy,” Garcia said.

Senate Bill 1, aka the College Affordability Act, requires an agreement by higher education institutions not to raise tuition any more than 6 percent next year.

“This will help keep tuition increases in check,” said Benson, who noted that the CU Board of Regents has final say on tuition increases. “We intend to come in below the 6 percent mark.”

Benson said CU’s current funding level remains $60 million below the past peak for state funding; he called the proposed increase a helpful step in the right direction, and thanked the state for “stepping up.”

Several students, including one each from CU-Boulder and UCCS, also voiced their support of the bill to the committee; no formal action was taken Wednesday.

CU’s Government Relations team will continue to monitor the details as Senate Bill 1 moves through the Legislature.