Tuition Hike Caps Could Be Removed

Most Tuition Hikes Have Been 4-9%

Colorado lawmakers are working on legislation to give public universities the right to hike their tuition without state approval.

Right now, state lawmakers have the final word on how much state universities may raise tuition each year. Last year, the University of Colorado raised its undergrad tuition by about 4 percent; the University of Northern Colorado raised its tuition by 9 percent. Graduate tuition and other programs were allowed larger tuition increases.

Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, are looking at options to make up for escalating losses in the amount the state contributes to higher education

"From a long term economic development perspective we need strong colleges and universities. It’s a priority and what’s happening now isn’t working," said Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction.

The state has had to make huge cuts to higher education. Right now, Federal stimulus money is helping to fill the gap.

"Our budgets were cut about 50 percent this year in terms of state support and backfilled 100 percent with federal stimulus money. Next year, about 60 percent of that stimulus money is going away," Metropolitan State College President Stephen Jordan told 7NEWS.

Jordan said a tuition hike is the only answer to maintain the current levels of staffing and programs.

He said if the legislature were to give institutions the right to hike tuition without state approval it could help families plan ahead for the cost of tuition, rather than wait until after the legislative session every year.

"We could actually begin to price tuition out over multiple years and tell students well in advance what the price would be. So, students and parents could plan for those costs," Jordan said.

The idea of no tuition hike cap scares some students, like Vivian Wolpers, who went back to school because she lost her job.

"It’s terrifying, terrifying," said Wolpers.

Wolpers said she can hardly afford tuition as is.

"We have a hard time affording to live, housing, food, and the basic needs of life. We live on our student loans," she said.

Universities tell 7NEWS if tuition costs to go up, there will be more help for people like Wolpers.

"We know that it’s hard to pay for college. That’s why we try to make as much financial aide accessible to our students as possible," said Deborah Mendez-Wilson, spokeswoman for the University of Colorado System.

"Last year C.U. dispersed $105 million in financial aide to students that stems from tuition revenues," said Alvear.

In January, The University of Colorado at Boulder was named No. 5 on the Princeton Review's list of 100 Best Value Colleges for 2010. The review said more than half of C.U.'s undergraduates receive financial aid.

The state has dealt with a $2 billion shortfall over the past two budget years. Lawmakers have sliced funding for higher education, using stimulus money to help make up for the cuts. But in 2012, the stimulus funds will be gone.