State lawmakers recommend historic funding increase for higher ed

By Staff

The University of Colorado and other institutions of higher education across the state stand to gain $75.6 million in the upcoming budget year in the most recent recommendation of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC).

During figure setting last week, the JBC voted to advance a 10 percent increase in operations funding for public colleges and universities, as requested by Gov. John Hickenlooper – an amount equal to $60.6 million.

Because of a new higher education funding formula, some institutions would receive an increase greater than 10 percent and others less than 10 percent. To minimize this inequity, the request also included about $5 million to set a funding floor to ensure that every institution would see an increase of at least 10 percent through the new funding model. The governor also asked for an additional $10 million to provide grants to college programs impacting college completion and reducing attainment gaps.

The JBC voted in favor of those recommendations, as well, resulting in a total proposed increase of $75.6 million, or a historic increase of 12 percent for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The funding increases will help all institutions comply with the tuition rate increase cap of 6 percent going into next year.

Because the JBC continues to work on setting budgets for other priorities, there still is a chance that that amount could dip. State revenue forecasts, due March 18, also will affect the state budget.

As it stands, funding increases to individual state colleges and universities could range from 10 percent to 17.5 percent.

If the committee keeps the entire $75.6 million in the funding model, and should that be approved by the full Legislature, CU anticipates receiving slightly more than the initially planned 10 percent increase for the next fiscal year.

For most institutions, including CU, state funding and tuition costs are directly linked. CU last year raised tuition at CU-Boulder campus by only 3.3 percent, the lowest increase in eight years. The CU Board of Regents is considering tuition increases next year between 3 percent and 3.7 percent. These relatively small increases are largely because of the state’s increase in funding operating budgets this year and, it is hoped, next year.