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Monday Churn: College costs

What’s churning:

There’s been growing concern about college costs in recent years as taxpayer support of colleges and universities has slipped and tuition rates have climbed.

Two recent reports provide no startling information about those trends but do give an updated look that helps put the problem in perspective.

The first study is the Department of Higher Education’s annual financial aid report, covering the 2010-11 academic year, presented Friday to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Among its findings:

  • The number of students receiving financial aid reached 224,518, up 7 percent from the prior year.
  • Nearly half of those students received federal Pell Grants, with an average award of $3,498. Pell Grants accounted for 38 percent of all grants received by Colorado students, and 17 percent of all aid, which includes grants and loans.
  • The amount of Pell grants has increased 176 percent since 2005-06, both because of increased federal funding and a jump in the number of eligible students. Pell eligibility is based on family income.
  • State funded financial aid comprised about 10 percent of all grant aid and more than five percent of all aid. Total funding has remained constant – but the number of eligible students increased 148 percent since 2006, decreasing the average award by nearly 34 percent.
  • Aid provided by individual colleges and universities accounted for 39 percent of all grants and 18 percent of all aid. Institutional aid increased by 61 percent from 2005-06 to 2010-11. About 65 percent of institutional aid is awarded on merit.
  • Average overall student loan debt for bachelor’s degree graduates in Colorado was $23,662 in 2010-11, a bit above the national average of $22,000.

Read the full financial aid report here.

Also Friday, the Joint Budget Committee was briefed on the proposed 2012-13 higher education budget. While the meeting provided no surprises or excessive hand wringing, the briefing paper by committee analyst Patrick Brodhead provides some useful summary material about student aid and the financial challenges facing Colorado higher education.

Read the briefing paper here. A few highlights:

  • Consequences of reduced funding – page 33
  • Cost shift from state to students – page 40
  • Financial aid – page 46

What’s on tap:


The 2011 school and district ratings will be released to the State Board of Education and the public. The performance frameworks, as they are called, detail school and district academic achievement on statewide tests, growth, growth gaps and postsecondary readiness. Districts are assigned various accreditation levels based on performance; school ratings determine the types of improvement plans that must be used.

The board also will hold hearings on proposed regulations for online programs and for charter schools and charter authorizers and hear an appeal in a dispute between Pioneer Academy and the Falcon School District. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Agenda

Also Tuesday, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, which advises the Hickenlooper administration on early childhood issues, meets from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the new History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway.


The Adams 12 school board meets at district offices, 1500 E. 128th Ave. Agenda


The Colorado Association of School Boards opens its four-day annual convention at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Gov. John Hickenlooper is scheduled to speak to the group on Friday at 1:15 p.m. Agenda


Douglas County school board members kick off a two-day retreat at 2 p.m. at the Golf Club at Bear Dance, 6630 Bear Dance Road, in Larkspur. Saturday’s meeting begins at 8 a.m. No agenda is yet posted.

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