Successful legislation will help CU attract state’s top students

Bill seeking revenue boost for merit scholarships awaits governor’s OK

University of Colorado-backed legislation aimed at helping the state’s higher education institutions secure the best and brightest in-state students is awaiting Gov. Hickenlooper’s signature.

House Bill 1320 – sponsored by Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, and Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder – passed 64-1 in the House on Wednesday, scheduled to be the final day of the current legislative session. That vote came a day after the Senate approved the measure 27-8.

The legislation aims to grow revenue to support merit scholarships for the top in-state students – those who might otherwise be lured elsewhere by better offers.

The bill changes how the allowable ratio of resident students to nonresident students is calculated at state institutions of higher education. It will allow an institution to count a student who is admitted as a Colorado scholar as two in-state students for purposes of calculating the ratio.

With resulting room for more nonresident students, and without limiting overall totals of resident students, the additional revenue from that tuition stream would fund merit scholarships for the state’s top scholars. Campus leadership has said that CU often loses Colorado’s best college prospects to out-of-state institutions offering richer scholarship packages.

The state budget for the coming year had originally contained $3 million for such merit scholarships, but the item was pulled after lawmakers argued over whether undocumented students would be eligible for such grants. At one point, 1320 included $3 million in state funding for the scholarships, but that provision was removed before the legislation advanced.

CU’s Government Relations team worked in support of the bill at the Capitol, and CU administrators provided information and background at committee hearings. Members of the CU Advocates program were asked to contact their representatives and ask for their support of the legislation.