Tuition plans run the gamut

Tuition flexibility plans by Colorado colleges and universities range from annual increases of about 9 percent to hikes as large as 25 percent.

But those plans are based on a variety of “what if” scenarios and a lot can happen between now and next spring, when college trustees actually will set the tuition rates students will pay in 2011-12.

The biggest unknown is how much state tax support will be available for higher ed next year. The Department of Higher Education currently is working on the assumption that figure will be $555 million.

But some budget alarmists in the legislature fear it could go as low as about $300 million, a number that could drive larger tuition increases than any proposed in the plans.

College leaders have been uncomfortable about making tuition proposals so many months before budget numbers finally fall into place next April or May. Most of the proposals submitted are watermarked with “Draft,” Discussion Draft,” “Deliberative Work Document” or “Proposed.”

The proposals were prompted by a new state law allows colleges to apply to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for permission to raise resident undergraduate tuition by more than 9 percent a year. Institutions are allowed to make raises of up to 9 percent without state approval.

Here are snapshots of what’s being proposed:


University of Colorado – A 9.5 percent increase is proposed for resident undergraduate students in 2011-12. The plan includes raises “up to 9 percent” for school years 2012-13 through 2015-16. (Read CU proposal.)

Colorado State University System – The CSU proposal is more complex and would generate increased tuition revenue by requiring Fort Collins students to take more credits to qualify as full time and by eliminating a credit hour discount at Pueblo. CSU also is studying whether to charge differential tuition for high-cost programs. (Read CSU plan.)

The two systems released their plans previously. The department on Wednesday released proposals made by other institutions. The Colorado School of Mines chose not to submit a flexibility plan. (Electronic copies of the following plans aren’t yet available.)

Larger institutions

Front Range Community College
Front Range Community College in Westminster

Colorado Community College System – The system proposed a “what-if” set of tuition increases, based on varying levels of state support. With hold-the-line state support next year ($119.5 million for the community colleges), tuition wouldn’t rise more than 9 percent. If state aid drops to $109 million, a 15.7 percent increase would be needed.

Assuming a moderate continuing decline in state support, the system would need 11.2 percent increases in 2012-13 and 2013-14 but no more than 9 percent in the two following school years.

A more severe decline in state aid would require 12.5 percent increases in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the proposal says.

Metropolitan State College of Denver – The college says it has two options for 2011-12. The first is raising tuition 21 percent but reducing some fees by rolling them into tuition bills. That would yield a combined tuition and fee increases of 16.5 percent. If Metro trustees decide not to change the fee structure, the proposed tuition increase alone would be 12.5 percent.

University of Northern Colorado – UNC is proposing increases of 15 percent for the next two school years, 12 percent in 2013-14 and 9 percent for each of the two following years. The UNC proposal is among the most detailed.

Regional state colleges

Adams State – The Alamosa school suggests two levels of tuition increases, based on different amounts of state support. With state aid of $11.8 million a year, the college says it would need 11 percent tuition increases in each of the next five school years.

If state support is only $10.8 million a year, the college “reluctantly requests authority” for a 25 percent hike next year, 20 percent in 2012-13, 12 percent in 2013-14 and 9 percent in each of the two following years.

Fort Lewis College – The Durango college also paints two tuition possibilities. Under the first, the definition of full time would be raised from 10 credit hours to 12, and tuition would be raised 9 percent a year for five years. The second plan would increase tuition 20 percent in each of the next two years and 9 percent in each of the following three years.

Mesa State College – The application from the Grand Junction school hasn’t been formally accepted by the department because it doesn’t meet the format requirements set by the commission. The current draft says Mesa can contain tuition increases to 9 percent or less in the next two schools years unless state support is cut by 10 percent or more from the current assumption of $555 million for all colleges in 2011-12.

If that happens, the application says, “The college reserves the right to revise its FAP accordingly, based on new information.” FAP is higher ed jargon for financial accountability plan, the formal name for the tuition permission requests.

Western State College
Campus of Western State College in Gunnison

Western State College – The Gunnison college has three tuition scenarios, again based on different levels of state support. Those are: Best situation – 11.6 percent a year for five years. Middle situation – 16 percent a year. Worst case – 19.1 percent.

The colleges have varying proposals for protecting affordability for lower- and middle-income students, including reliance on federal Pell Grants and rolling a percentage of new tuition revenue back into financial aid.

The proposals are so different partly because the financial profiles of state colleges and systems vary widely, with different levels of state support; different mixes of resident, non-resident and graduate students; and varying abilities to raise government and private grants.

As UNC President Kay Norton aptly notes, Colorado doesn’t have a higher education “system,” it has an “array” of colleges and universities.

Non-resident and graduate student tuition rates aren’t covered by the flexibility law; college trustees can set them as they choose.

What’s next

The commission is expected to be briefed on the proposals at its meeting Thursday but isn’t scheduled to rule on the applications until December. In the meantime, a department team is evaluating them and a subcommittee of commission members will review them and make recommendations to the full CCHE.

The tuition law, which includes other financial flexibility provisions designed to make things easier for colleges in tough financial times, expires in five years. State officials hope that the current revenue crisis will ease – and that a new higher education strategic plan will be in place – by then.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede