Opinion: The College “Affordability” Act

(Josh Shettler/CU Independent Illustration)
(Josh Shettler/CU Independent Illustration)

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As the Colorado State Legislature begins session this Wednesday, a bill dubbed the College Affordability Act, a $100 million fund for higher education, will come to the forefront. The CU student government supports the bill, but the members are divided as to whether to support it so soon. Reluctance stems from the fact that many similar bills have come up over the years and often prove controversial. The bill proposes to increase funding by $100 million and to lower tuition increase caps to six percent.

I do not believe this bill will be sustainable or that enough has been done to remedy the problem. While the bill will help in the short term, costs will continue to rise until the current system of higher education becomes largely obsolete.

Bills like this have been presented every year since the 1998 TABOR Act, which has diminished healthcare and education funding over the past decade. Previous proposed bills have either been shot down or have not done enough to remedy the situation.

With this bill, the CU system will get $16.6 million for its four campuses. Almost all of the money will be spent on capital construction fees. Another $40 million will go to financial aid programs like the College Opportunity Fund, further helping students who choose to study in state. Tuition increases will also be capped at six percent instead of the current nine percent.

Allocation of funds to higher education may eventually improve costs to 2008-2009 levels, but tuition will remain high, and it will continue to increase. Although more funding will be allocated to financial aid, the number of students competing for aid awards will increase as well. The bill does nothing to help overcome the massive cost increases that will still persistently rise.

The CU system has done better than most universities in the state to keep costs down, but tuition is still high, and many families cannot afford to send their children to state universities without help. A majority of the student population remains on financial aid, and many students continue to leave college with thousands of dollars worth of debt.

Students across the state should be able to attend a university for free or pay the cost of attending college through alternative plans. Oregon’s “Pay it forward” program, passed last year, takes small portions from an individual’s paycheck in the decades after they graduate college. This plan is being proposed in a number of states and is a more sustainable way to help students pay for their education.

Like many past Colorado education bills, this one may prove to be the source of many arguments along party lines. Whether or not to support the bill right away was a major point of disagreement among members of CUSG in the Jan. 23 meeting. This bill represents a battle that has been raging for many years and will only continue to rage in years to come.

Contact CU Independent staff writer Ryan Hite at Ryan.Hite@Colorado.edu.

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