Higher ed funding bill being revised after concerns expressed

CU part of collaborative effort with state leaders
By Staff

Higher ed funding bill being revised after concerns expressed

A proposed change to how state funding is distributed among higher education institutions is being modified partly in response to concerns expressed by leaders at the University of Colorado.

House Bill 1319, introduced earlier this month by House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, direct more funding into the College Opportunity Fund (COF), which follows resident students to the state institution of their choice, and allocation to colleges and universities would be based partly on factors such as student retention and graduation rates.

CU’s Government Relations team has expressed serious concerns about the bill’s impact and unintended consequences. Based on initial figures, some colleges and universities would benefit from such changes; others, including CU, would stand to lose funding.

On Friday, Ferrandino met with several higher education presidents, chief financial officers and lobbyists. Among the 30 in attendance were Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and Richard Kaufman, chair of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE). All governing board representatives expressed some concerns, including those whose institutions would benefit from the current version of the bill.

Concerns ranged from the bill’s introduction late in the legislative session – Ferrandino is in his last year at the Legislature and said he is eager to get the bill passed before he leaves – to suggestions that the bill’s measurements be based on outcomes rather than inputs. Some governing boards wanted to weight Pell-eligible students and enrollment growth higher; some governing boards wanted to rate completion and graduation rates higher.

All governing boards asked questions about some of the numbers attached to the different policy goals in the bill and several governing boards asked about tuition and how that would be factored into the bill. Garcia and Kaufman expressed their concerns that the process needed to be more collaborative and that the CCHE should play a key role as it has in the past — convening the governing boards to work out many complex and challenging details, as well as examining the role and mission of the different institutions.

Ferrandino said he intended to significantly change the proposed bill, stating that he would not include the funding formula’s specifics in the bill, leaving them to be worked out in the future. No action would be taken until after the House had heard the long bill, the state's budget bill, which is in process this week. He also talked about having some of the issues in the bill phased over time, rather than all being implemented in 2015-16.

Tanya Kelly-Bowry, vice president of Government Relations, said the bill now is moving in a much better direction than the original version, but CU remains cautious until the next draft is available for review, likely by early next week.

CU also is working to rescue funding for a proposed renovation of the Ketchum Arts and Sciences Building at CU-Boulder.

The $13.4 million project will replace aging infrastructure within the building to include the HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems, a fire alarm system upgrade, as well as asbestos abatement. It also includes the addition of new air conditioning, building insulation, and window replacement for energy conservation.

The state’s Capital Development Committee had recommended the project be funded, but the Joint Budget Committee did not fully fund the list of projects as recommended. Renovation of the Auraria Library (originally $26.8 million) and new construction of the Visual and Performing Arts Building at UCCS ($13.3 million) remained on the list of funded projects, though Auraria was reduced by $5 million.

CU now is working with other institutions whose projects also weren’t funded in an effort to secure at least partial funding from lawmakers for Ketchum and other excluded projects.