Gov. Bill Ritter today signed legislation that helps public colleges and universities keep their doors open for the immediate future while options for long-term, sustainable business models are explored.
With lawmakers, college presidents and education advocates at his side, Gov. Ritter signed into law Senate Bill 3 (Morse & Penry/Middleton & May), a bipartisan measure that grants public colleges and universities greater flexibility in setting tuition through Fiscal Year 2016. The law is based on a recommendation from Gov. Ritter's Higher Education Strategic Plan Steering Committee.
"An affordable, accessible and high-quality system of public higher education is critical to creating opportunities and preparing Colorado students to enter the workforce ready for success," Gov. Ritter said, noting he benefited from this very system himself, graduating from Colorado State University and the University of Colorado School of Law. "It also is one of the keys to Colorado's economic future and our overall quality of life.
"But higher education has reached a funding crossroad here in Colorado and many states across the country," Gov. Ritter said. "Senate Bill 3 is not a permanent fix. It does, however, provide short-term relief while we develop a strategic roadmap for long-term sustainability, and central to this new law is the principle that a public higher education in Colorado remains affordable and accessible to all."
SB 3 allows governing boards, from FY11-FY16, to determine annual tuition increases that do not exceed 9 percent. Institutions seeking increases greater than 9 percent must get approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for five-year financial and accountability plans. These plans must demonstrate that access and affordability for low- and middle-income students will be preserved.
"With higher education facing cuts next year, it was imperative that we take action to keep colleges and universities affordable and open for Coloradans of all income levels," said Sen. John Morse. "Senate Bill 3 is about doing what is absolutely necessary to keep colleges and universities open and to keep Colorado's economy on track."
"This bill gives our higher education institutions the autonomy they need to ensure they thrive and serve Colorado's kids," said Rep. Karen Middleton. "Our universities and colleges have been hit with the burden of state budget cuts, and although this isn't a complete fix to our higher ed funding woes, it will help them have more flexibility to operate effectively."
Gov. Ritter today also signed House Bill 1428 (Middleton/Romer), which allocates $35 million in funds from CollegeInvest to benefit higher education.
"Too many of our students still cannot afford college. That's why I am so proud that in this budget climate, we were able to shore up millions of dollars for scholarships, need-based aid and job training programs," said Rep. Karen Middleton. "With the change in federal law, we can bolster our scholarship fund to help deserving students, while also keeping a lean budget. To make the dream of college a reachable reality for more high school graduates -- particularly in a session with not much good financial news to report -- this deserves a banner headline."