Poor state funding causes another tuition hike

MSU Denver students can expect a tuition increase for the 2017-18 school year. The board of trustees passed a 6.5 percent hike on May 5.

tuition hike

Associate Vice President of Administration and Finance George Middlemost at his desk in the Student Success Building on May 23. Photo by Lauren Cordova • scordo22@msudenver.edu

According to the Early Bird, state funding of higher education fluctuates significantly because it is considered optional by lawmakers. Based on the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Colorado higher education institutions will receive an increase of $20.5 million. These funds are distributed by performance data, such as enrollment and graduation rates. MSU Denver has struggled with enrollment as the state economy has improved. Although Colorado funding has increased .4 percent from last year, that only amounts to $211,602 in total funding from the state. This money goes toward $3.5 million in mandatory expenses, such as salaries for faculty and staff and employee healthcare. Associate Vice President of Administration and Finance, George Middlemist, said that MSU Denver is one of the least funded higher ed institutions nationwide.

“If you look at our peer institutions, those that are our size and serve the same students that we do, we get about 50 cents on the dollar to provide support services to our students,” Middlemist said.

To close the gap between state funding and what is required to keep the school moving in a forward trajectory, the Budget Task Force at MSU Denver recommended a tuition increase of 7 percent. However, student members on the BTF and others in opposition expressed concerns that such a surge in conjunction with rising rent and other expenses would burden them. Board leaders settled on the student-recommended 6.5 percent.

“As leaders, you really want to push forward initiatives to change student outcomes, but you also want to listen to the students’ voice,” Middlemist said. “We value the students’ opinion and so we make-do with 6.5 percent and hope we do a really good job of getting our enrollment numbers up, because then that will give us money to do some other things with.”

The tuition increase works out to be an average of $300-$400 per semester depending on tuition discounts. In addition to institutional funding, the state also allocates additional funds for financial aid.

“Every time we increase tuition, we’re also looking at how we also increase scholarships,” Middlemist said. “Financial aid works really hard to make sure that those students have access, some access, to what I would call ‘free money’.”

The school also offers grants, scholarships and free credit hours for eligible students, which discounts the cost to about half of what the school actually charges.

MSU Denver tuition and fees are the lowest in the state so the school isn’t concerned that students will be turned away or drop out.

“We haven’t experienced students not finishing because the tuition went up, what we have experienced is students saying ‘I may take a break,’ but most of them have the intention of coming back and finishing their degree,” Middlemist said.

Ashton Brown, an MSU Denver student, said that the increase does have the potential to impact other students with more expenses, so much so that they may not be able to attend the school.

“Metro is already a fairly cheap school, so $300 more doesn’t really sound like that much. I don’t think it’ll affect me that much, but obviously it’ll affect people differently.”

Author: Madison Lauterbach

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