Increase in state funding, tuition still increasing

Note: This story was changed to reflect that the extra $5.4 million from the state will be approximately one-fifth of CSU’s new proposed expenditures for 2013-14.

 

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All joking about the trials and tribulations of Cubs baseball aside, an e-mail sent from CSU President Tony Frank to students last week had encouraging news about finances for higher education in Colorado.

Colorado State University Interim President Anthony A. Frank.  November 11, 2008
Colorado State University President Anthony A. Frank.

 

 

After being hammered the last four years higher education is getting a much needed financial boost from the state.

Total state support to higher education in Colorado dropped from $706 million in 2010 to an estimated $543 million for the 2014 school year. Better than expected state revenues means higher education in Colorado will see an additional $30 million in state support for the coming academic year.

The CSU campus is expected to see $5.4 million of the total increase.

In an e-mail to the Collegian, Frank said the extra money accounts for nearly one-fifth of CSU’s proposed new expenditures for FY 2013-2014.

This represents “nearly all of the quality enhancement portion of the budget-faculty recruiting and retention, support for student success initiatives, and expansion of our environmental programs,” Frank wrote. “Perhaps more importantly, these funds signify the elected representatives of the state of Colorado still understand the importance of maintaining public funding for higher education despite ongoing financial pressures.”

But the extra cash won’t bring down tuition rates for CSU students. Frank stated he still plans on proposing a nine percent tuition hike to the university’s governing board, which the group will vote on in May.

It’s nothing new for CSU students. Tuition has increased over 50 percent over the last four years. In 2008-2009, the rate was $4,424. In 2012-2013, it stands at $6,875. If the proposed nine percent increase is approved by the Board of Governors, tuition will be $7,493 for 2013-2014.

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Frank said there were multiple discussions at various levels of the university to use the entire $5.4 million to offset undergraduate tuition. That would’ve halved the proposed tuition hike to approximately 4.5 percent.

“I think everyone is looking for ways to mitigate tuition increases,” Frank wrote.

This, however, would have come with a decrease in expenditures elsewhere.

Likewise, the Associated Students of CSU Tuition Task Force had asked for a smaller tuition increase alongside a reduction in the proposed faculty/staff salary increase. This had been selected as the best of three choices by CSU students in a student voice survey administered by the task force.

CSU faculty and staff had seen years of pay freezes brought on by the recession.

“The problem is we’re very sympathetic to the need of salary increases because we want to have our university stay competitive,” said Lindon Belshe, chair of the tuition task force and director of governmental affairs for ASCSU. “However, large tuition increases at an average of 13 percent per year for the past decade means that being competitive isn’t only about maintaining competitive staff salaries. It’s also maintaining competitive tuition prices and college affordability.”

Neither plan was implemented.

“In both cases, we felt that the benefits to the quality and long-term fiscal health of the university warranted moving ahead with the 9% resident undergraduate tuition increase recommendation to the Board of Governors,” Frank wrote.

Belshe said that as state funding to higher education decreases, it makes tough economic sense to increase tuition rates to offset the loss. But on the other hand, “It’s frustrating for us to still see a nine percent increase even when state revenue’s are going up,” Belshe said.

The total amount of new financial resources at CSU will be $31.5 million for the 2013-2014 academic year. The bulk of that is slated to come from $25.6 million in new tuition revenue, on top of the $5.4 million that was a focal point of Frank’s e-mail to campus about CSU’s operating budget.

The largest new expense is a $9.8 million increase in salaries and benefits for faculty and staff.

Jamie Budai, a sophomore math major, said she supports pay raises for faculty and staff. She said the $5.4 million in additional help from the state wouldn’t dramatically offset tuition increases if it was used for that purpose.

“I think it’s important for staff to get pay raises, actually… ” Budai said. “I think it’ll make them happier and maybe make our education better.”

Senior Reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.