CU partners with state leaders to improve college affordability, stimulate industry

New legislation, funding commitments helped by CU support
By Staff

The University of Colorado was at the forefront in pushing new legislation and funding commitments from Colorado lawmakers to improve affordability for college students and position the state to lead in the burgeoning quantum industry.

Two key bills supported at the Capitol by CU President Todd Saliman and leadership across the CU system were passed by the legislature last week and now await the signature of Gov. Jared Polis.

The CU-initiated House Bill 24-1340 establishes tax incentives to encourage Colorado high school graduates to pursue secondary education at in-state public institutions. This bill is a crucial victory for college affordability.

During outreach engagement across the state, CU leadership continues to hear from families that affordability is a critical factor in college decision-making and that middle-income families are feeling a gap in aid. That feedback led to the development of HB 1340, which as introduced, would have provided an incentive for credit transfer and going into degree programs that lead to top-demand jobs.

In an effort to reach more students and in collaboration with the bill sponsors – Reps. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Rick Taggart, R-Grand Junction, along with Sens. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton, and Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada – and the Governor’s office, the bill evolved into a credit that will cover the cost of tuition and fees for the first two years of two-year and four-year degree and area technical school programs. The credit will be available to students with a household federally adjusted gross income of $90,000 or less.

President Saliman, CU Boulder Student Government President Chase Cromwell, CU Denver Student Government President Bria Combs and Vice President Savannah Brooks were among those who spoke in support of the bill. The bill also garnered support and testimony from CU’s industry partners, including the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Latin American Educational Foundation, C3, South Metro Denver Chamber, Club 20 and the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado.

“The bill sponsors did amazing work on this bill, which resulted in compromise while always putting students first. With this legislation, the state is making a significant investment to save many Coloradans money on college,” Saliman said. “CU is committed to educating all Coloradans. That happens by working with policymakers to make a four-year degree accessible and affordable to all who want one, which in turn keeps our state and nation competitive.”

Said Bird, “I was all in when CU first came to me with the desire to do something creative to address higher education affordability and expand aid opportunities to more students while at the same time incentivizing ways to meet workforce demand. The final product demonstrates both CU and the state’s commitment to making higher education accessible for all students – a great thing for the state’s flagship institution to take a leadership role on.”

House Bill 24-1325  creates two tax incentives to support the development of the state’s quantum technology ecosystem. CU Boulder is established as a global leader in quantum research and innovation.

The bill will create a multi-year, $74 million refundable tax credit program to leverage Colorado’s private sector and academic research innovation, maximizing the state’s competitiveness for the Phase 2 Tech Hub selection and federal funding. The bill would provide a critical $29 million tax credit to support the construction of translational lab space led by CU Boulder. CU’s Government Relations team worked closely with partners at the Office of Economic Development and International Trade and EQ to develop and introduce this bill.

“CU already is poised to help establish one of the world’s leading quantum economies,” Saliman said. “By incentivizing investment in quantum research, the state is driving the development of a powerful engine for our workforce and economy.”

Saliman also commended state leadership for approving a significant operating increase in funding for higher education, totaling $107 million in the next fiscal year. CU will receive $29.4 million, equal to an operating increase of 9.6%. The state is also increasing statewide student financial aid by $25.1 million.

“Keeping tuition in check is directly tied to state funding,” Saliman said. “This state funding directly benefits college students and families throughout Colorado by helping slow college cost increases. We started working well before the legislative session began with other higher education institutions to develop a funding request to keep tuition in check. This funding increase enables us to do exactly that. We’re grateful to the legislature for approving this significant increase and to the governor for signing it into law.”

The state’s funding includes $17.4 million in controlled maintenance, which covers repairs or replacement of existing facilities, for 12 projects across the four CU campuses.

SB24-221 Funding for Rural Health is a CU-initiated bill that builds off of SB22-172 Colorado Rural Health-care Workforce Initiative, which creates “grow your own” health care pathways at institutions of higher education across the state. Under the leadership of Mark Deutchman, M.D., at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, the bill provides additional one-time funding of $867,000 to support the buildout of the programs and scholarships for students. It also includes $1.74 million for rural hospitals.