Higher education takes another hit in state budget proposal

Cut of $36 million not as deep as some had feared

Gov. John Hickenlooper's proposed state budget for 2011-2012 includes less funding for higher education than had been recommended by former Gov. Bill Ritter. While the cut had been anticipated, it did not go as deep as many had feared.

Hickenlooper cut Ritter's figure by $36 million, down to $519 million from $555 million. Gloomy economic forecast figures released in December led to the proposed reduction.

"This budget proposal is about tough choices and sustainability. Frankly, it is about living within our means at a difficult time," Hickenlooper said in a news release. "We are taking difficult steps now to ensure that Colorado's budget is on a sustainable path, which is critical as we seek to achieve both short-term and long-term economic growth."

Hickenlooper said the budget is based on the most conservative economic forecast, and also includes cuts to K-12 education, Medicaid and human services. Other cost-saving measures include the closing of a state prison, reducing local grants and reinstating a 4 percent budget reserve, or about 14 days of operating funds for the state.

To see Hickenlooper's letter to the Joint Budget Committee, click here.

Meanwhile, lawmakers at the Capitol continue to consider legislation that affects the University of Colorado and other institutions, including House Bill 1057, which would extend some contract protections of tenured faculty members to adjunct professors.

Mark Malone, chair of the CU Faculty Council, spoke in opposition to the bill before the House's education committee Wednesday, Feb. 9.

While adjunct professors make a big contribution to the university, Malone said after his appearance, the proposed bill would make them eligible for appeal processes designed for and only appropriate for faculty who have undergone the tenure process.

"Tenure is not designed for someone who just teaches – it's a very extensive process," Malone said. "A process for adjunct professors could be created, but things like that don't happen without resources and costs."

Community colleges in the state also have spoken against the proposed bill.