Colorado

New era dawns for college tuition

The Colorado legislature this year gave up its direct power to control college and university tuition, but the rates students may pay in the next five years indirectly still will be up to lawmakers.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education Thursday unanimously approved tuition flexibility plans submitted by six higher education institutions and systems. Five of the plans contain “what-if” scenarios that suggest different levels of tuition increases depending on how much state support the 2011 legislature allocates to higher ed.

So the lower state support is, the more tuition may jump.

A law passed by the 2010 legislature allows college boards of trustees to raise tuition up to 9 percent a year for each of the next five years. (Traditionally, the legislature set tuition increase ceilings in the annual state budget bill.) The new law also allows colleges that want higher rates to ask permission from the CCHE. Those are the plans approved by the commission Thursday.

The commission votes don’t set future tuition rates, nor have any colleges and universities made official tuition decisions for 2011-12. The commission merely gave institutions authority to raise tuition more than 9 percent, and individual college boards won’t set actual 2011-12 tuition until next May or June.

“Nobody wants these tuition increases. What we have tried to do is set up a mechanism for colleges to respond if they have to,” said Rick Munn, director of the Department of Higher Education.

Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed $555 million in state support for higher ed in 2011-12, so that’s the base against which colleges have calculated their what-if tuition plans (see this story for background). Of course, that amount may change depending on state revenues, the proposals of the incoming Hickenlooper administration and, ultimately, the decisions of the legislature.

At a previous meeting, the commission approved flexibility plans for the Colorado State University System, Metro State College and Fort Lewis College (see this story for details). The Colorado School of Mines chose not to file an application.

The flexibility law requires colleges to have plans to maintain affordability for low- and middle-income students. While institutions have proposed a wide variety of affordability strategies, a common tactic is to earmark percentages of increased tuition revenue for financial aid and for student counseling and retention programs.

The plans are a sign of the accelerating shift towards state college pricing models that look more like those of private colleges – higher tuition, different tuition rates for different programs depending on cost and student demand and more individually tailored financial aid based on the needs of individual students.

Here are highlights of the flexibility requests approved Thursday:

University of Colorado System – The university won’t raise undergraduate resident tuition more than 9 percent if currently proposed levels of state aid for 2011-12 are approved. At a lower level of state funding, CU would raise tuition up to 9.5 percent. The system did not request permission for increases above 9 percent in budget years 2012-13 through 2015-16.

Community College System – The system won’t raise tuition more than 9 percent if state funding is approved at forecast levels, but it may raise 2011-12 tuition by 15.7 percent if state aid is 10 percent below what has been proposed. Also, depending on state support, the system wants the flexibility to raise tuition between 10.8 and 12.7 percent in 2012-13.

University of Northern Colorado – The university proposes average increases of 15 percent next year (ranging from 8 to 22 percent depending on program and credit hours taken), an average of 12 percent in 2014-15 and of 9 percent in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Adams State College – Tuition could increase 11 percent annually through the five-year period if 2011-12 state support comes in at the forecast levels. If state aid drops by about 10 percent, Adams proposes a 25 percent increase next year, 20 percent in 2012-13, 12 percent in 2013-14 and 9 percent in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Mesa State College – The college proposes keeping overall tuition increases below 9 percent if state funding is as expected. If state funding is more than 10 percent below projected levels, Mesa proposes to increase tuition .49 percent for each percentage that state funding drops. The college doesn’t expect increases of more than 9 percent for 2012-13 through 2015-16.

Western State College – The college is considering raising tuition by 11.6 percent a year during the five-year period if state funding is stable and by 16 percent a year if state funding drops by 10 percent or more.

The new flexibility system applies only to tuition for Colorado residents who are undergraduates. College trustees can set rates as they choose for out-of-state students and for graduate programs.

(See the bottom of this DHE page for links to the full financial plans for each college and system. Go here to read a new DHE detailed new report on tuition rates and fees in the current school year, and see a report on financial aid for Colorado students in 2009-10 here. Also see this table showing the change in tuition and fees from 2009-10 to 2010-11.)

Master plan, or master planning?

Now that a citizens’ committee has taken a year to develop a higher education strategic plan, the commission is going to take another year to decide how to implement it.

The commission Thursday formally adopted the strategic plan recently finished by a citizen committee as part of the CCHE’s new master plan for higher education. DHE staff also proposed that the commission develop more detailed plans to implement the broader goals suggest in the document, titled “The Degree Dividend.”

That sparked discussion among commission members about whether they were adopting a “master plan” or a system of “master planning.” Eventually they agreed to give themselves a Dec. 31, 2011, deadline for the additional work.

At any rate, the tuition flexibility law also requires CCHE to submit a plan to the legislature before the 2011 session starts, so “The Degree Dividend” was approved as that document and will be sent along to the Capitol.

Another delay for Westwood

For the second time this fall, the commission delayed a decision on whether to place for-profit Westwood College on “probationary accreditation.” The college has been placed on probation by its accrediting agency, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. The CCHE in October discussed whether to put Westwood on Colorado probation to align with the accrediting body’s action.

No decision was made then because the accrediting commission was to reconsider the Westwood case in November. Staff members told CCHE Thursday that the accrediting commission apparently has made a decision but won’t be announcing it until next week.

So, CCHE again decided to wait to act until after the national body’s decision is known. (See previous story about Westwood and CCHE.)

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 [email protected]

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