Posted tagged ‘Colorado colleges and universities’

Lawmakers tackle State Budget in better economic climate

March 27, 2013

Legislators have begun reviewing SB 230, the state budget bill called the “Long Bill,” as the state’s economy continues to improve. Next year’s state budget will be about $1 billion larger than the current year’s because of increased tax revenues. State officials say job growth is strong, though the unemployment rate is not declining as rapidly as desired and more than $1 billion in across-the-board federal government cuts are expected to negatively impact our state’s economic growth.

Unlike states where the Governor initiates the state budget bill,  this is the job of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC) in Colorado. The bipartisan committee’s six members create the annual appropriations bill for state government operations. JBC members include three from the Senate Appropriations Committee and three from the House Appropriations Committee.

This year’s JBC members are Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton), Sen. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs), Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), and Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen). Sen. Steadman chairs the JBC; Rep. Levy is the vice-chair.

The Long Bill review should not be as painful as the same review was in each of the last four years when state tax revenues tanked during the recession and the Legislature had to slash budgets. The state’s improved fiscal health means more money for many state programs. P-12 could see an increase of about three percent, though this is far short of the money needed to fully apply Amendment 23, the constitutional provision requiring annual increases for education.

The Long Bill includes about $30 million more in support for Colorado’s public colleges and universities, bringing the state’s support up to about one-quarter of total higher education spending, most of which is funded through student tuition. It appears there will be more money for higher education construction and maintenance, as well.

The Senate deals with the Long Bill this week, followed by consideration by the House the week of April 1.








Our hope may be realized soon as SB 33 approaches the last step in legislative process

March 5, 2013

In 2003, the drive began to get in-state Colorado university and college tuition for undocumented students. Beginning that year, State Rep. Val Vigil (D-Thornton) ran bills for three years, all unsuccessfully.

By then, Colorado was one of only five states in the entire country to make it illegal for higher education institutions to offer in-state tuition to students whose immigrant parents brought them to the U.S., often as small children.

Since 2006, legislators have tried to pass in-state or reduced tuition bills four more times. This year is the year. Senate Bill 33, nicknamed “ASSET,” is expected to pass the House of Representatives this Friday. The bill won second reading endorsement today after several hours of testimony on the House floor. (ASSET stands for Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow.)

Watching the House debate today were numerous students anxious for SB 33 to pass because the bill means, literally, their future. One young woman, a Westminster High School senior, is looking forward to her high school graduation this spring. She said, “This is a long time coming. So many came before me and fought to help make sure that I can afford to go to college next year. I thank everyone who helped over these past 10 years for their support. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better graduation present than ASSET passing.”

We anticipate SB 33 will be heard on its third reading final vote in the House this Friday, March 8. Several Republican lawmakers are expected to join their Democratic counterparts in supporting the bill. Once it has passed, it will go to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk for his signature.

The cost of attending college is the main obstacle facing undocumented students. While there is no federal law prohibiting the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges and universities, financial limitations are enough to prevent students from applying and enrolling.

SB 33 will not only give many students the opportunity to go to college in Colorado at resident tuition rates, but it will raise millions of dollars each year in additional tuition revenue for our financially-strapped institutions of higher education. Thus, SB 33 is a way to build up Colorado’s educated workforce and grow our state’s economy.

Under Senate Bill 33, students who graduate from high school and have attended a Colorado school for at least three years will be eligible for the in-state tuition rate regardless of immigration status. Estimates by legislative researchers are that about 1,500 Colorado high school students without legal immigration status graduate each year and, of these, 500 are expected to go to college the first year the new law takes effect. Analysts predict that an additional 250 students will attend college each year after that if SB 33 becomes law.

The Higher Education Access Alliance (HEAA) has been pushing for SB 33 and the approval of resident tuition for undocumented students, along with affordable access to higher education for all Colorado students. CEA is a member of HEAA’s steering committee, represented by CEA Executive Director Tony Salazar. Joining CEA in HEAA’s cause are the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; Latino Leadership Advocacy and Research Organization; Latin American Educational Foundation; Padres y Jovenes Unidos; Stand for Children; Together Colorado; SEIU Local 105; and Metropolitan State University of Denver.


College students could get credit for what they learned in jobs, the military, and their communities

January 24, 2012

Tomorrow the House Education Committee will hear HB 1072. The bill is called Higher Education Prior Learning Assessments.

Proposed by the Legislature’s Educational Success Task Force, the bill’s sponsors are Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) and Sen. Keith King (R-Colorado Springs). HB 1072 requires Colorado’s Higher Education Commission (CCHE) to develop criteria for awarding credit to a college student who has “prior learning” through work experience, military service, community involvement, or independent study — prior learning acquired after high school as an adult. If the Legislature approves the bill, CCHE would do the prep work so the program could go into effect for the 2013-14 academic  year.

The bill is premised on the idea that adult learners, mobile learners, and nontraditional students are likely to come to college with learning acquired outside of traditional classrooms. They have acquired their learning from noncredit programs, corporate training, time spent in the military, volunteering, community workshops, and many other kinds of activities.

Often these students  come to college and are required to pay tuition for courses in things they already know — and they consider it a waste of their time and their money.

HB 1072 calls for Prior Learning Assessments to be used to measure what a college student has learned outside of college by evaluating whether that learning is college level and how many college credits it is worth.

The bill will start tomorrow in the House Education Committee. If the House Ed Committee passes the bill, it goes to the House Appropriations Committee and then to the full House for a vote before it goes over to the Senate for consideration.

Crazy idea? Practical idea? What do you think?