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Smaller CU tuition increases aired

Members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents Wednesday chewed on a new set of 2012-13 tuition proposals, and they chewed a bit on each other as well.

The regents first discussed possible 2012-13 tuition rates at a January board retreat, and there’s been a lot of controversy between then and Wednesday’s meeting.

The original January proposal, which included a proposed 15.7 percent hike in resident undergraduate tuition at Boulder, set off alarm bells for the faction of the board that opposes tuition hikes. Since then Boulder Daily Camera stories about CU President Bruce Benson’s emails, raises for top Boulder administrators, double dipping by part-time administrators and other salary issues have stirred the pot of controversy.

The tuition proposals presented by CU campus bureaucrats Wednesday are more modest and include:

  • A 7 percent resident undergraduate increase at CU-Colorado Springs
  • An 8.6 percent increase at Boulder
  • A 9.4 percent increase at Denver
  • Various increases, the highest being 9 percent, at the Anschutz Medical Campus

Tuition increases, of course, are much more complex than indicated by average percentage increases. The Boulder proposal includes increasing somewhat the number of classes required for full-time status, as well as an increase in the cost for each credit hour.

The Denver proposal is part of that campus’ proposal to achieve “linearity” – higher ed jargon for charging the same amount per credit hour regardless of how heavy a class load an individual student takes. Tuition at many Colorado institutions typically has covered a range – a student would pay the same amount for taking 15 or for 18 credit hours, for instance. Many institutions have been raised the number of classes required for full-time status and have been trying to move closer to linearity.

Shifting to a linear system can cost some students, so the UCD proposal is a phased-in plan that would “buy down” tuition during the transition period, meaning the average increase would actually be 6.6 percent.

Boulder was the focus of regent discussion. Some regents would like a system under which tuition would be locked in when students enter as freshmen, with tuition staying the same until graduation. Boulder finance executive Ric Porreca said the campus is happy to develop such a plan but that it’s too late in the budget cycle to do that for 2012-13.

Regent Jim Geddes, R-6th District, asked for a calculation of what 2012-13 tuition increases would be without faculty and staff salary increases. (The presentation Wednesday included details on what increased tuition revenue would be spent on, including salaries. See this CU slide presentation for details.)

The regents also discussed the possibility of a 6.7 percent increase at Boulder. No decisions were made Wednesday, and the board will take up the issue again at its April 18-19 meetings.

Regents sound off

Before the tuition presentation, regents vented a little bit about the controversies of the last two months.

Steve Bosley, R-At Large, started off by taking on critics of Benson, saying, “Some want to occupy a special place because they disagree with the president.” Bosley asked, “Why do some of you leak information to the Boulder Camera?”

Joe Neguse, D-2nd District, said, “The media, the public, they’ve raised some great questions. We should be eager to answer those questions.”

Geddes said, “I agree with what Joe just stated.”

Sue Sharkey, R-4th District, said as a public official she has a responsibility to answer media questions. “I don’t call that leaking information.”

Other board members tried to calm the waters a bit.

“I am proud to serve with a bunch of passionate board members,” said Stephen Ludwig, D-At Large. “This is just sort of normal machinations” for the board, he said, recalling a long history of board disagreements.

“It’s a good board. … It isn’t unusual that we have a split vote,” said Tilman Bishop, R-3rd District.

Michael Carrigan, D-1st District, spoke up for Benson, rumored to be out of favor with some regents. Noting that he’d voted against Benson’s hiring, Carrigan said, “He is doing an outstanding job. … I’m glad I lost that vote.”

Benson was quiet for most of Wednesday’s meeting, speaking up only when asked about Geddes’ suggestion that tuition increase could be limited if there are no staff raises. “I don’t agree with it,” Benson said, adding that if staff salaries are frozen it ought to be done at all campuses, not just Boulder.

See this Education News Colorado story for an update on the 2012-13 situation statewide.