The University of Colorado Board of Regents asked for more information about extending to Coloradans the four-year tuition guarantee now available only to nonresidents. At the board's mid-winter retreat in Silverthorne, members discussed the benefits of the proposal, which would include enhanced recruiting, a more stable funding base, better relations with Colorado lawmakers, and stronger graduation rates. Under the plan, students would pay one tuition rate during four years of study.
Although CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano said the idea has been considered for years, discussions have intensified as state funding continues its steady slide. He said it would allow the campus and the university to plan over a multi-year time period instead of on a year-to-year basis.
The challenge, according to system budget vice president Kelly Fox, is that for such a model to work, the first -year tuition has to be carefully calculated to balance between anticipating the correct level of revenue and not pricing students out of the market. Some regents expressed concern that a huge price jump necessary for the first year of the program would hinder access and jeopardize CU's mission as a public institution. But the board was intrigued enough to ask the administration to work up models and come back for more discussion.
In other discussion, Fox urged the regents to consider two key areas of need as work begins on next year's budget: a salary pool for faculty and staff and enhanced student services. Fox said that because there have been no raises for the past two years, CU runs the risk of losing some of its top people as the state slowly begins to emerge from recession. Making a salary pool available, however limited, would give the university some flexibility to retain key people. The board did not reject the idea, but also did not direct Fox to explore it further.
She also warned the board that declines in the quality and level of student services such as advising, together with an ever-increasing backlog of deferred maintenance, will erode the student experience.
Regent Tillie Bishop said the regents need to pay attention to the warning signs or students will begin attending other higher education institutions.