Flexibility for university a key goal at 2010 legislative session

As state lawmakers gather, CU representatives work to protect budget
By Staff
University of Colorado/Casey A. Cass

University of Colorado/Casey A. Cass

Like the old line about the three most important things in real estate, the University of Colorado's focus during the 2010 Colorado General Assembly also is a list of three - not "location, location, location," but "budget, budget, budget."

State lawmakers today began their four-month session at the Capitol in Denver. CU's Office of Government Relations has been working with lawmaker committees in the months leading up to the legislative session, and will continue to monitor the nearly 500 bills expected to be introduced.

Tanya Kelly-Bowry, the university's vice president for state and federal government relations, said 2010 "is going to be a tough, highly politicized year at the state legislature."

"Our lobbying team is already working hard to fight for CU's interests in these challenging budget times," Kelly-Bowry said. "It's important to focus our energy this year on pursuing flexibility legislation, which will help make our business practices more effective and efficient, and open up new ways to help our students."

Besides monitoring specific legislation, government relations will keep tabs on the overall state budget, particularly higher education's portion.

Some of the legislation CU representatives expect to watch closely:

  • Higher education flexibility
    Spearheaded by senate majority leader John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), the state's Fiscal Stability Commission, and higher education leaders, this package is aimed at improving efficiency at the university by loosening some current state-mandated regulations. Among the bill's goals:

    1. Allow higher education institutions to develop their own fiscal rules and policies, apart from some state regulations. Cutting down on bureaucracy would improve efficiency and effectiveness.
    2. Remove current limits on the number of international students who may enroll in colleges. The University of Colorado at Boulder has the smallest international student population of any institution in the American Association of Universities. Without denying spots to in-state students, a greater influx of students from around the world would grow enrollment, diversify the campus experience and boost tuition revenue.
    3. Allow universities to determine how they allocate student financial aid money, rather than have it driven by state formulas.
    4. Establish that higher education institutions autonomously set their own information technology practices.
  • Higher education transferability
    CU has worked with other state institutions to agree on standards for transferring college credits from two-year schools to four-year schools, and between four-year schools. Kathleen Bollard, associate vice president for academic affairs, has represented the university in discussions with other educators to determine language that makes clear to students what the standards will allow. Higher education faculty and administrators from two- and four-year institutions have been collaborating to determine transfer requirements for five degree programs by next year, with agreements on more degrees to follow in the future.
  • Nurse faculty loan forgiveness program
    The university is working with CollegeInvest, other higher education institutions, sponsors, and the governor's office to extend eligibility requirements for the existing CollegeInvest nurse loan forgiveness program. Nursing programs at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Anschutz Medical Campus could then promote the incentive as a recruiting tool when hiring new faculty.
  • PERA repair
    Lawmakers are expected to work on a bill to bolster the ailing retirement fund relied on largely by education employees. Changes could be made to the retirement age, employer and employee contributions and cost-of-living increases.