General Assembly reaches halfway mark

Higher ed flexibility could move forward soon; revenue forecast expected this week

If the Colorado General Assembly's 2010 session were a two-act play, it would be time for intermission, with audience members from the University of Colorado on the edge of their seats, anxious for Act Two.

The 60-day session is half over, but the legislation with the greatest implications for the university, a package of higher education flexibility, has yet to be officially introduced at the Capitol. It had been ready to launch in January, but was put on hold at the request of Gov. Bill Ritter. He wanted a task force at the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to first have a chance to offer recommendations. That happened earlier this month, and included a suggested green light for the flexibility package, which would address issues pertaining to tuition, fiscal rules, capital construction, enrollment of international students and more.

CU's government relations team expects the latest version of the flexibility package to be introduced soon.

Potential flexibility legislation would have effects on higher education budgets in future years; the latest revenue forecast from the governor could affect budgets for the upcoming academic year. The forecast is slated to be released at 10 a.m. Friday, March 19. Ritter has said he's optimistic that the newest forecast won't necessitate further cuts to higher education funding, but nothing is certain.

Other legislative action of interest to the CU community:

  • A bill aimed at expanding eligibility for nursing teacher loan forgiveness was passed by the House Appropriations Committee on Friday, with preliminary consideration by the full House expected today. The program provides up to $20,000 in loan reimbursement for someone who teaches nursing in a higher-education institution for a minimum of five years. The new legislation would only require that a nursing faculty member be teaching half-time, rather than the old requirement of full-time, in order to take advantage of the loan forgiveness. Nursing programs at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Anschutz Medical Campus could promote such an incentive as a recruiting tool when hiring new faculty.
  • Language in a bill that would have required student-fee-funded construction projects to include a 1 percent allowance for public art was eliminated. Current law requires all state buildings to include such an allowance. "In these tough economic times, we fought to remove that new requirement," said Kirsten Castleman, director of state relations in CU's Office of Government Relations. "It would have even included minor renovations to cafeterias or parking garages." Students still may choose to fund public art with their fees if they desire.
  • A bill setting statewide transfer agreements among higher education institutions was passed by the Senate Education Committee last week and was set forpreliminary hearing by the full senate this week.