Higher ed flexibility headed to governor's desk

CU's top legislative priority of the session earns lawmakers' OK

Having received final approval from the Colorado House on Monday, May 10, the higher education flexibility bill has been passed to Gov. Bill Ritter for his signature. After the House made a minor change to the bill's language on Monday, it was returned to the Senate for its final OK by lawmakers on Tuesday, May 11, just a day before the conclusion of this year's General Assembly session.

Legislators have said SB10-003 was necessary to avoid a potential "funding cliff" in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, when budget issues might force the state to cut support for education by 50 percent or more.

The legislation would allow colleges and universities to make up lost revenue in numerous ways, including raising rates of tuition and fees and allowing the institutions flexibility in issuing contracts and making purchases.

Provisions of SB3 would sunset in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

College and university presidents, the governor, legislators and members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education all had a hand in negotiating the bill beginning in the summer of 2009. The bill was revised several times during the legislative session.

University of Colorado President Bruce D. Benson has said provisions of the bill would allow the university to operate more efficiently and effectively by reducing paperwork and getting rid of redundancies and delays.

In part, SB3 would:

  1. Allow higher education institutions to increase tuition for residents and out-of-state students by up to 9 percent annually without seeking state approval. Any larger increase must be approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE); in those instances, colleges and universities would be required to submit a five-year plan to the CCHE and also show how they would provide increased financial aid to students.
  2. Remove international students from the statutorily required limit on nonresident students enrolled in colleges, allowing for a larger population of students from other countries. It also would require that all in-state students who pass requirements be admitted to the higher education system. For CU, at least 55 percent of incoming freshmen must be in-state students, and at least two-thirds of the students on each campus must be in-state students. The total number of foreign students enrolled at each CU campus must not exceed 12 percent of total enrollment at the campus.
  3. Give institutions greater flexibility regarding capital construction projects, purchasing contracts and other financial matters. Currently, universities and colleges must funnel most matters through the state for approval.
  4. Require institutions to provide detailed plans on how governing boards would ensure accessibility and affordability for low- and middle-income students, how financial aid would be distributed and ways to improve student retention.

The General Assembly session in review will appear in next week's issue of the Faculty and Staff Newsletter.