5:00am

Tue January 28, 2014
Politics

College Affordability Act Number One Priority For Colorado Dems

Just three weeks into the annual legislative session and Colorado lawmakers are off to a slower start than previous years. But a top Democrat priority bill, aimed at higher education funding, will soon gets its first hearing.

Brian Larson speaks with Colorado Statesman publisher Jody Hope Strogoff about Senate Bill 1

The College Affordability Act, which is also known as Senate Bill 1, would budget an additional $100 million annually for the state’s colleges and universities. The funding increase is significant since higher education has seen almost a third of its state funding cut since the start of the recession.

SB 1 would also cap yearly tuition increases at 6 percent from the current 9 percent.

Interview Highlights

On the significance of putting money back into higher education after years of cuts.

“It’s an 11% increase over just a year ago. And the total package for higher education, at about $604 million represents really the biggest investment in higher ed since probably 2007, 2008.”

Funding for higher ed is normally a part of the state budget bill. But SB 1 is being presented as a separate bill rather. What’s the strategy behind that?

Well I think Democrats wanted to showcase this as their number one priority. And it also reflects what Governor Hickenlooper said during his state of the state address earlier this month. He specifically asked for an additional $100 million for higher education. And secondly I think legislators didn’t really want to become mired up with, perhaps, some of the budget cuts, not so much the cuts but the budget discussions and the amendments and the whole process of budgeting.”

Some Republicans say SB 1 won’t help students because colleges and universities could pass along costs in the form of higher fees. There’s also language in the bill that would allow schools to request a waiver to increase tuition above the 6 % cap.

“And universities and colleges can always place higher fees on things, but the colleges will be getting additional funds and I think it’s going to be substantial. If you look for instance at Colorado State University they’ll be getting $12 million from the College Affordability Act and that’s substantial, likewise the other statewide colleges in Colorado. So I think this is going to be viewed as yes, they can probably get around this in some loopholes but the premise is a good one and I think you’ll find a lot of people very supportive of this.”

Jody Hope Strogoff is the publisher of the Colorado Statesman

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