Tuition flexibility plan might go to lawmakers this month

Higher Ed committee cagrees in principle to idea; governor might review this week

A proposal allowing colleges and universities to set their own tuition could be in Gov. Bill Ritter's hands this week and to the Legislature by the end of March.

The governor said Thursday, Feb. 25, that "tuition flexibility is not tuition autonomy for institutions in the state," adding that any such plan to help fund higher education must include "assurances of access and affordability" for low- and middle-income families.

Ritter has previously opposed giving higher education institutions the power to determine tuition costs, but he said the current economic crisis has made him reconsider the idea. "Nobody anticipated the length or depth of the downturn," he said during a media briefing.

A day before, the Higher Education Strategic Planning Steering Committee agreed in principle to a plan allowing institutions to decide their own tuition rates. If Ritter agrees with the plan, he could send a recommendation to legislators before the end of March.

Any plan would not affect the 2011-2012 school year, but would be available for the 2012-2013 school year and beyond.

The governor acknowledged that not all state institutions would be helped by the plan, but said the proposal would be designed so research institutions such as the University of Colorado could take advantage of it.

For years, the Legislature has set caps on how much colleges and universities could increase tuition each year. A higher ed financial bill currently is on hold in the Legislature, waiting for the governor's input.