Last Thursday, the Colorado Senate Education Committee postponed a Democratic bill that would have capped Colorado State University tuition at 6 percent indefinitely.
The 5-4 vote was split on party lines with all Republican members voting to postpone. To many students, the news was disheartening.
Yet, there is more to this story. Although I am sure there are many students who are angry about the results, the fiscal health of CSU is a much more complex beast. Capping tuition indefinitely paints a pretty picture, especially for Colorado Democrats who are looking to appease the middle class. But, even if the bill had passed, that pretty picture would have only concealed a bigger problem.
Limited state funding for higher education is an enormous factor in determining tuition rates and the University’s fiscal budget. Even for this year, one of the factors for whether or not tuition will be below 6 percent is seeing if the state will give CSU more money.
Historically, state funding for higher education has declined. Between 1980 and 2011, state funding of higher education in Colorado went down by 69.4 percent, according to the American Council on Education. The report went on to state that at the rate funding has declined, appropriations could reach zero by 2022.
Recently, the state appropriated over $100 million new funds for higher education, and CSU saw about $12 million of these funds, but that was last year. This year, unless more money is given to CSU, the University will face some challenges to reach a balanced budget, especially with a cap on tuition.
In the most recent budget update presented to ASCSU Senate last fall, the Provost Rick Miranda presented that the University is short about $3.5 million for the next fiscal year.
“We are limited by a 6 percent resident undergraduate tuition increase,” Miranda said at the meeting. “This is a hard cap for resident tuition. We’d like this number to be lower, though it is unlikely that it will be.”
When a cap is placed on tuition, the University is more limited in their ability to have a balanced budget. Student tuition generally makes up 67 to 75 percent of the University’s funds, so when that is capped, that means the University has less money to work with and spend on other growth areas.
Without new funding, the current cap on tuition is more of a hindrance on the University than it is a positive for students. Even if it might make some students happy in the short term, capping tuition indefinitely would have been like placing a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches.
Tuition is high because the University had to find another way to survive with limited state funding. If the state is going to solve the financial burden placed on students, it is not going to be as a result of a tuition cap. It may look nice, but it’s not the solution.
Collegian columnist Skyler Leonard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @skyler_leonard.