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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

CSU students face proposed tuition increase, petition System, state

CSU+students+face+proposed+tuition+increase%2C+petition+System%2C+state

Collegian | Dylan Tusinski

Naomi Hillmer

Grant Coursey, Staff Reporter

While not yet official, Colorado State University students may see a higher tuition bill in the next academic year.

Some students support faculty in seeking a pay increase; however, many do not support a tuition hike to pay for it.

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“I didn’t sign up to be a piggy bank for the Board of Governors,” said Nick DeSalvo, speaker of the senate for the Associated Students of CSU, in response to the proposed tuition increase brought to the CSU System’s Board of Governors in December 2022. 

DeSalvo is also the organizer of a petition that has garnered more than 2,000 signatures in opposition to the proposed tuition hike and 138 followers on its associated Instagram account.

DeSalvo said the goal is to get 10,000 signatures by the end of the semester in May when the Board of Governors makes the final decision whether to adopt the proposed tuition hike.

DeSalvo said a variety of students support his opposition to the proposed tuition increase, including those who may not be able to stay at CSU because of the financial impacts of the proposed tuition hike and graduating students who feel the tuition increase runs counter to the university’s legacy as a land-grant institution.

The proposed tuition increase the petition refers to would amount to a 4% increase on in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students and a 3% increase on in-state and out-of-state graduate students, a roughly $14 million increase overall, according to the most recent working budget provided by CSU.

“I think there have been some moments where they have stepped up. But what I’m looking for is a sustained minimum commitment. … I don’t have to worry that in two years the bottom falls out of that, and then I’m going back to tuition (to cover costs).” –Brendan Hanlon, vice president for university operations and chief financial officer

DeSalvo explicitly supports a pay increase for professors in his petition but said funding a raise for CSU’s faculty and staff should not be the students’ responsibility.

“I wanted to stress in the petition that, of course, we support faculty getting a pay increase,” DeSalvo said. “I think it’s essential. Particularly (for) nontenure track faculty because they do the vast majority of the teaching, and even folks with Ph.D.s are still getting paid less than they would at the Poudre School District from what I’ve heard from faculty, and I think that’s unacceptable.”

President of CSU’s Graduate Student Council Derek Newberger said the financial difficulties in balancing CSU’s budget can be chalked up to three main problems after a meeting with the President’s Student Financial Advisory Council he took part in recently.

Newberger said the first problem is a deficit left by pandemic-era spending, the second a 7% national inflation rate and the third a salary increase for CSU’s faculty and staff.

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“When I walked out of that meeting, I was demoralized,” Newberger said.

The newest working budget for CSU still has a roughly $4.5 million shortfall to make up. Newberger recognizes the need for greater funding for the university to face the deficit created by these three main stressors but said it’s sad the weight of the three problems has fallen on the wallets of undergraduate and graduate students.

Brendan Hanlon, vice president for university operations and chief financial officer of CSU, would love to avoid a tuition increase, but without more support from the state of Colorado, he has a hard time seeing how that would be possible.

“Let’s say the state number stays the same,” Hanlon said. “It is (then) tuition, or cost cuts or some combination of the two. … Therein lies the three knobs of this conversation.”

Hanlon said personnel account for roughly 70% of CSU’s operating budget, making cost cuts difficult to turn to as the solution when adequate compensation is so important for retaining skilled staff that are crucial for the quality of education CSU offers.

CSU is forced to work inside the parameters set by the governor’s budget, and this does not leave them in a very good spot.

Colorado ranked No. 49 in the country in spending on public universities in 2021, said Jeff Dodge, director of internal communications at CSU, citing an article published in STATE magazine that focused on the risks and benefits of getting a college degree.

The same STATE magazine article also showed that the state of Colorado used to cover two-thirds of the university’s tuition cost at the turn of the century, while students and families only covered a third. That has flipped, and since 2011, it has been closer to the opposite; the state covers a third, and students and families cover two-thirds of Colorado universities’ budgets.

Hanlon said he does not think the state of Colorado is paying its fair share into public universities yet.

“I think there have been some moments where they have stepped up,” Hanlon said. “But what I’m looking for is a sustained minimum commitment because right now, it feels like every year we are waiting on the snapshot. Is the number (from the state) going to be zero? Is it going to be double? We don’t know. I think having a dedicated commitment would alleviate that concern. … I don’t have to worry that in two years the bottom falls out of that, and then I’m going back to tuition (to cover costs).”

The petition started by DeSalvo may be especially helpful in convincing the state legislature to allocate more funds, Dodge said. He encouraged DeSalvo to send the petition to members of the legislature to show how many students oppose a tuition increase, and both Hanlon and Dodge encouraged the group organizing the petition to be specific about the action they want to see from the state as the solution to the proposed tuition increase.

Even if the increase goes through, Hanlon pointed out that $4 million appropriated through the increase would go back into financial aid in the most recent working budget to alleviate the strain on the lowest-income students at CSU.

This money would go to the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant, said Tom Biedscheid, CSU’s assistant vice president for enrollment and access. The grant can help not only with the cost of tuition and fees but also living expenses for students who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. It is designed to increase at the same rate tuition increases.

“The fact that the grant increase is baked in to the process is unique to CSU,” Biedscheid said. “And (it’s) done intentionally to ensure that any tuition increase will automatically be covered for our limited-income students.”

The grant is just one tool of many at the disposal of the Office of Financial Aid to help students with the cost of attendance, said Joseph Donlay, the director of financial aid at CSU.

Donlay said the Office of Financial Aid is there to help students, and the quickest, easiest way to to get information and assistance regarding the variety of programs the Office of Financial Aid offers is to connect directly with their financial aid counseling team located in Centennial Hall or to email financialaid@colostate.edu.

The development of the final budget that CSU will present to the Board of Governors is an ongoing process, one that Hanlon said he is open to input on.

“There’s always going to be some tension around a subject like this,” Hanlon said. “But I think I would prefer to see a setting where we are having these conversations and dialogues and getting people’s ideas because this institution is about ideas.”

Reach Grant Coursey at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @grantcoursey. 

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