CU regents approve lowest tuition hike in nearly a decade for Boulder campus

University of Colorado graduate student Alexander Cardenas studies in the Norlin Library on Monday on the CU campus in Boulder.Jeremy Papasso / Staff

 

DENVER — In-state undergraduates at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus will see their tuition increase next year by 2.9 percent — the lowest hike in nearly a decade.

The relatively low increase, approved by CU’s Board of Regents on Monday, is largely the result of an expected 10 percent increase in state funding for the CU system.

CU-Boulder should see an additional $6.3 million from the state’s general fund if the current proposed budget is approved by the Legislature this spring.

“State funding is having a direct impact on our ability to keep tuition down,” Todd Saliman, CU’s chief financial officer, told the board.

The tuition increases are based on 30 credit hours per year for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences. Students in other schools and colleges pay different rates.

Those totals are for tuition only and do not include fees, room and board, health insurance, and other expenditures.

In-state students will see an increase of 2.9 percent, or $264, for a new tuition rate of $9,312. In the recent past, tuition increases have ranged from 2.4 percent to 27.8 percent for those students.

Also, the campus is increasing tuition for new out-of-state students by 3 percent, or $936, for a 2015-2016 rate of $32,346. Incoming international undergraduates will pay an additional 3.1 percent, or $1,020, for a new rate of $33,930.

CU-Boulder offers all out-of-state and international students a four-year tuition guarantee, so the new rates apply only to incoming students.

The tuition increases, plus anticipated enrollment growth, are expected to generate $37.6 million in new revenue for the campus.

‘Still too high’

Though he didn’t go into detail, CU President Bruce Benson said he expects CU-Boulder’s percentage increase for tuition to be one of the lowest in the state next year.

For the second straight year, all public higher education institutions in Colorado were held to a 6 percent cap for tuition increases.

Many regents applauded the campus for keeping cost increases relatively low for students and families, but not everyone was supportive of the numbers.

New board member John Carson, a Republican from Highlands Ranch, issued the lone dissenting vote on tuition and fee increases.

Carson said he believes the cost of higher education is growing too much, and he wants the board to begin setting tuition caps or goals in the future.

“Even though 3 percent is better than some of the other institutions in our state, it’s still too high for me,” he said. “I want to hear what our plan is to get this tuition situation under control moving forward.”

Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, defended campus leaders and budget officials, and said CU’s tuition increases align with inflation.

“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” Gallegos said. “This year, our folks have done a good job to stay within what’s affordable.

“The fact that we’re at 3 percent, I don’t know, other than the price of gas, of anything in this economy that’s any lower. So we need to fight to keep our universities affordable, but the fact that we’re at 3 percent instead of 4 percent or 5 or 6 percent ought to be a feather in the caps of our different campuses.”

Future funding

Though the state is on track to allocate an additional $66.6 million for public institutions’ operating budgets in 2015-2016, the future of state higher education funding looks less rosy.

CU budget leaders are projecting a funding cut in 2016-2017 and flat funding for several years after that due to expected cost increases for K-12 education and health care, refunds required under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and other factors.

The regents went back and forth on the relatively low tuition increase in the face of uncertain state funding, and hinted at a rockier road ahead for future tuition discussions.

“The question is who supports higher education in Colorado?” said Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock. “If we’re going to keep tuition rates down, that means more of our tax dollars have to go to support higher education.”

Student fees

The regents also approved a 2.2 percent increase in mandatory student fees for the Boulder campus, or fees that all students pay. That rate for 2015-2016 is set to be $1,779.

The board also approved several fee increases and new fees for specific programs and courses, including computer science, chemical and biological engineering, geography and others. Housing and dining fees will increase by 3 percent next year.

CU-Boulder students will begin paying a $42.28 fee next year to expand mental health and counseling services.

The CU Student Government Activity Fee is set to decline 2.3 percent, or $9.43, because the campus’s general fund is absorbing the Women’s Resource Center, GLBTQ Resource Center and the Student Outreach and Retention Center for Equity, which previously were student fee-funded programs.

Taken together, tuition and fees will rise 2.8 percent next year for many in-state undergraduates.

New spending

CU-Boulder is expected to spend an additional $13.6 million for salaries and benefits of faculty and staff next year.

The campus is also investing an additional $18 million in its aging infrastructure, diversity initiatives, online education, retention efforts, compliance, information technology and other efforts.

Included in that total is $6.6 million into the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the new College of Media, Communication and Information, both of which are experiencing rapid enrollment growth.

Also included is $2.5 million for the third year of the Esteemed Scholars program, a scholarship initiative for high-achieving Colorado students.