Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The fixed-tuition bill

This is some legislation I wrote and successfully pushed in 2004. It became law, although I don't know if it was ever implemented as I left CSA shortly after this article appeared.

Fixed-tuition bill offers students same rate for all college years
Chris Kampfe and Kyle Endres
The CSU Collegian
Issue date: 5/4/04

Four-year college students could pay an unchanging tuition amount every year under a bill passed by the state legislature on Monday.

House Bill 1207, barring Gov. Bill Owens' veto, will allow students to sign a contract upon admission to state higher-education institutions that would grant them a fixed-tuition rate if they promise to graduate in a certain amount of time.

"It's to try to even out price increases and tuition increases so a family can plan their budget and say we know that for the next four years, 'We've got to come up with this amount of money,'" said Rick O'Donnell, executive director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

The fixed rate would be strictly optional for students.

"In my own opinion, in the way I've seen the bill most recently, though it hasn't passed yet, it makes it optional to offer these fixed-tuition contracts to students, and it makes it optional for students to participate," said Gerard Bomotti, vice president for Administrative Services.

The bill was proposed by Rep. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and co-drafted with Ryan McMaken, executive director of the Colorado Student Association.

McMaken said he believes state universities support the idea.

"It isn't a mandate," McMaken said. "It's something they wanted to do in the past."

Bomotti is wary of implementing such contracts in unpredictable economic times.

"An institution can best offer a fixed-tuition program over a four-year period if the environment is more stable," Bomotti said. "Now, the financial environment in Colorado is not stable."

The bill's implementation is contingent on the passage of the College Opportunity Fund, which is also awaiting Owens' approval. This bill would grant stipends, or vouchers, to in-state students for use at state universities, rather than universities receiving funding directly from the state.

Some stipend supporters say the College Opportunity Fund provides the opportunity for universities to attain enterprise status, which would give them more financial flexibility.

Owens will approve the bill this month, O'Donnell said.

He said the fixed-tuition rate would offer students and families more choices in paying for college.

"Not every student or family's going to want it, but it was an option that the institutions saw they could offer that some students would maybe find (is) an easier way to be able manage the cost of college," he said.

But Sen. Peggy Reeves, D-Larimer County, agrees with Bomotti that the fixed-tuition contract bill's timing is questionable.

"I think that we're in a great state of flux within higher education right now," she said. "I think we need to implement the college-opportunity vouchers and understand how that mechanism works and how that shakedown works before we implement this proposal."