Legislators want to cap tuition hikes at state schools


AURORA | Democrat legislators are proposing a bill to cap tuition increases at state colleges and universities to battle rising costs for higher education. The proposal would cap hikes at 6 percent for the next two years for state schools.

“We’ve seen tuition inflation rates go up over 600 percent over a decade or so,” said Colorado Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, at a town hall meeting Feb. 20.

“It used to be students were paying one-third of tuition and the state was paying two-thirds. That got flipped around, and it’s been difficult for students and for all of higher education,” she said.

Carroll said the bill, dubbed the College Affordability Act, would allocate an additional $100 million annually to state colleges and universities for the next two years.

Michael Carrigan, chairman of the University of Colorado Regents, said at the meeting the extra funding was one reason CU was looking at its lowest tuition increase in seven years. Last week the University of Colorado administration proposed a tuition increase of 4 percent at one of its campuses to its board of regents.

“We fully expect we’ll be under that 6 percent largely because of support we’re getting from (the proposal),” he said.

Jeff Thompson, director of government and corporate affairs for University of Colorado Health, said the bill would help Aurora with funneling health care workers into the Anschutz Medical Campus. He said the campus employs over 5,000 people from Aurora.

“Our medical colleges in the next three to four years, are facing a workforce shortage of more than 90,000 physicians,” he said.

“We’ve got to address this by getting more students into higher education, and more students into pipeline for professional education. (The bill) is an important step for making that happen.”

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education predicts there won’t be enough educated Coloradans to fill state jobs by 2020.

Some residents at the meeting questioned whether two years would be enough time to turn things around.

“We’re going to have to come up with funding sources not so dependent on growth in economy so we don’t have peaks and valleys,” said Rep. John Buckner, D-Aurora. “We’re going to have to decide that higher education and K-12 are priorities, and we will fund them at a level that will serve students in the state. The long-term changes we need to make are structural changes in tax laws.”

Senate Bill 1, which has passed out of the Senate will head to the House Education Committee next. Senate Bill 4, a measure sponsored by Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, that will increase college affordability by allowing community colleges to provide some 4-year applied sciences degrees, will being signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Feb. 28.