Higher education flexibility bill launched, but changes likely

State lawmakers this week begin delving into package aimed at improving efficiency

The bill aimed at giving higher education institutions greater flexibility in several state-regulated areas has been introduced in the Colorado Senate, beginning a process that's likely to mean changes to the package before being voted on by lawmakers.

Supported by the University of Colorado and the state's other public colleges and universities, the bill is aimed at improving efficiency at institutions by loosening some state-mandated regulations. The flexibility legislation is sponsored by senate majority leader John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver); Morse has invited university leaders to meet later this week to discuss work on the bill.

Among the bill's goals:

  • 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 while maintaining the accountability overseen by governing boards and auditing processes.
  • Remove current limits on the number of international students, who now count against non resident caps, 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.
  • Allow universities to determine how they allocate student financial aid money, rather than have it driven by state formulas.
  • Establish that higher education institutions autonomously set their own information technology practices.
  • Establish new standards for transferring college credits from two-year schools to four-year schools, and between four-year schools. 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.
  • Give colleges the ability to proceed with cash-funded construction projects more efficiently.

Lawmakers now are in discussions about each aspect of the bill. The CU Faculty and Staff Newsletter will continue to follow its progress throughout the legislative session.