First week of lawmaking session puts spotlight on higher education

Bills regarding funding, four-year community college degrees among early arrivals

The first week of the Legislature’s 2014 session brought early arriving bills with implications for the University of Colorado and other higher education institutions across the state.

Senate Bill 14-001: This is the vehicle for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s requested $100 million increase for higher education in next year’s budget. Of this increase, $60 million would be allocated toward operating costs and $40 million would go toward a variety of financial aid programs, such as merit, need-based, and work study. CU’s portion of the $60 million increase, if approved, would be $16.5 million, an 11 percent increase over last year.

Named the College Affordability Act, the bill would tie the funding to a mandated cap of 6 percent on any tuition increases next year; CU and all other institutions have agreed to the limit. CU supports the bill, and the Government Relations team monitoring its details as it moves through the Legislature.

Senate Bill 14-004: The state’s community colleges are working to add four-year degrees to their offerings. CU and others had concerns over last year’s version; as introduced this year, the legislation limits the scope of the expansion to bachelor of applied science degrees, which CU doesn’t offer. The bill also calls for a thorough evaluation process that would enable CU and others to weigh in on whether added degree programs are cost-effective and of benefit to the state. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education has expressed support of the bill. CU is not opposed to it, though concerns remain from faculty and deans regarding the general policy direction. Government Relations will monitor the bill closely.

Capital construction: CU is working to secure more funding for capital construction projects, as well as funding for controlled maintenance. The Legislature will begin the process of prioritizing state-funded capital projects and determine how much to appropriate for those projects in the next several weeks so that it can ultimately be included in the budget bill in March.

CU-Boulder athletics facilities: CU this week will seek cash spending authority from the state for new and redesigned athletics facilities at CU-Boulder. The Board of Regents approved the $140 million plan last month.