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Benson talks tuition increases, international recruitment

Published: Monday, April 22, 2013

Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 02:04

CU President Bruce Benson held a town hall-style meeting at Berger Hall to discuss the state of the

Photo by Nick Burns

CU President Bruce Benson held a town hall-style meeting at Berger Hall to discuss the state of the CU system.

     With Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., submitting a 3.6 percent increase in classified pay as a part of his budget plan, state schools must formulate ways to fund these increases.

     “We came up with a 3.1 percent salary pool,” CU President Bruce Benson stated April 15 at Berger Hall during a town hall-style meeting.

     “It costs a lot more to replace those good people than it does to keep them on with a little more salary increase.”

     Benson spoke of the special Board of Regents meeting held earlier this month.

     “They approved all of our tuition and fees that we recommended to them,” Benson stated.

     CU Regents endorsed a 6 percent increase in tuition rates for UCCS students, both undergraduate and graduate resident students. Non-resident students will see a 4 percent tuition increase coming into effect next fall.

     “Who wants to raise tuition? Nobody does. But you don’t want to lose your great people,” Benson said.

     Funding of higher education could also be affected by a lawsuit currently being viewed by the Colorado Supreme Court.

     The plaintiffs involved in the Lobato case state that the current financial system for education is not congruent with the Colorado constitution’s requirement of “thorough and uniform” public education system.

     If the plaintiffs win, the state would either have to raise taxes by at least 50 percent or have to devote 89 percent of the general fund budget to K-12 funding.

     Medicaid, transportation, public safety (including the State Patrol, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and prison system) and higher education would be a few of the most affected areas.

     The case was first filed in 2005 and is now at the Colorado Supreme Court following many appeals. With a seven-member court and one recusal, Benson is “very nervous” about the situation.

     “If it goes the wrong way, the state is going to have to come up with another several billion dollars to cover.” He added, “It will be interesting to see how they handle all of that.”

    Benson also quoted a past University of Denver study that stated the University of Colorado would be out of money in eight years.

     CU’s flailing financial health would be in part due to Amendment 23, which promotes minimum funding for K-12 schools.

     Benson cited the state’s polled percentages in financing higher education in comparison to other public interests.

     “Positive for K-12 education is at about 55 percent, for health it’s 23 percent, for transportation and higher ed, it’s about 11 percent each,” Benson said, adding that higher education “just does not sell well.”

     Benson referenced money-saving issues that have been “cut” and “cleaned out” since he has taken the role of president.

     “You need international students on your campuses if you’re going to be an international university,” Benson said. He noted it is important to learn about other cultures.

     With new measures in the works, Benson claimed Boulder could be receiving $70 million a year, and Colorado Springs could be receiving $10 million a year if UCCS gained 1,000 international students.

    “This is why we’re pushing ahead,” Benson continued. “The campuses are actually working together, talking about how we can do more to help each other find more international students.”

     Benson also suggested that the idea of sequestration wasn’t all that bad of an idea in handling the higher education part of the budget.

     “I think we could go through and do a lot of things that would be simple, easy and not hurt people.”

     Benson’s address also touched on enrollment growth. “When we have that kind of enrollment growth and we have to continue to hold things down, it gets a little tougher on the rest of us that are here,” he said.

     According to the Office of Institutional Research, transfer student numbers increased by 8 percent in Spring 2013.

     Homer Wesley, vice chancellor, Student Success and Enrollment Management, said earlier this year regarding spring enrollment, “I believe these increases are the result of the diligent efforts of many people.”

     Under Benson, CU has increased fundraising with a record high of $213 million in 2010-2011, but as further cuts to higher education are made, some fear this effort falls short of necessary help.

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