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.

Cover of March 14 CU tuition proposal

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

CU Regents
CU Regents are all smiles in their official portrait but sometimes contentious on issues.

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.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.