Gubernatorial candidates Bill Ritter and Bob Beauprez both have agendas out for their campaigns after Democrat Ritter released his “Colorado Promise” last Monday.
A recurring issue in both Ritter’s “Colorado Promise” and Republican Beauprez’s “Colorado Accountability Pledge” is the future of state funding for higher education. Ritter and Beauprez acknowledge in each of their agendas that Colorado is one of the most educated states in the country, but most of the people educated come here from other states around the nation.
Each candidate wants to start educating more people in Colorado by increasing graduation rates and reducing the number of drop-outs from schools by making education more affordable and making the students invest more time in their education.
“I don’t think (the future of funding) is looking good until a complete turn-around is made,” said junior political science major Neil Robertson. “Until both sides focus on the cost, it will continue to be a problem.”
In his agenda, Ritter hopes to double the number of graduates in Colorado in 10 years. He will accomplish this goal through a focus on financial aid, the plan says.
Ritter revealed his plan in the “Colorado Promise” to make work study more available to students, reasoning that students who work while they go to college tend to have a higher retention rate and perform better academically than those who don’t work.
“Studies do show that students who work between 10-20 hours per week, especially on campus, perform better (academically) because of the relationships with faculty and staff,” said Susan Youtz, assistant director in the Office of Financial Aid at CU.
Unfortunately, that goal might be hard to reach considering that the number of students who want jobs outnumber the amount of money the university has to give. Currently, between 1,000 and 2,000 students are awarded work-study jobs each year at CU, and the university has received a steady $1.3 million dollars each year to pay those students for their work.
“We currently do not have the funding for the demand of students who want jobs,” Youtz said.
Along with an increase in work-study awards, Ritter plans to push for an increase in financial support from the state of Colorado, while limiting the tuition rates for in-state schools. He also wants to provide the opportunity for middle- and low-income students to pay off their student loans in the form of public service or volunteer programs during summer break.
“There is a direct link between the amount of state funding and the amount of financial aid available,” said senior journalism and political science major Nicole Dupont, media director for the College Democrats.
In his agenda, Ritter said that while “increasing state support, I will ask institutions to limit tuition increases to resident students, expand financial assistance to low-income students, and improve performance in retention and graduation rates.”
Ritter’s “Colorado Promise” can be found on his Web site, ritterforgovernor.com.
Beauprez’s campaign agenda, the “Colorado Accountability Pledge,” focuses more on the College Opportunity Fund to help raise the number of college students in the state and decrease the drop-out rates.
Earlier in the year, Beauprez opposed Referendum C, which would cap tuition rates for universities in Colorado.
“I was for it, it was a good short-term solution,” Robertson said. “I know that (Beauprez) and others looked at it as limiting the state’s budget.”
While it prevents any increases in tuition rates for Colorado schools, it doesn’t fix the problem to begin with.
“(Referendum C) fixes the cost of college at a certain amount, which is beneficial, but it is not decreasing the cost that we had a problem with, it’s just fixing it there,” Dupont said. “We need to realize that there was a problem that needed to be fixed in the first place.”
The College Opportunity Fund — the main focus for Beauprez’s campaign — allows all undergraduate students, regardless of their eligibility for financial aid, to receive money from the state to help pay tuition for the classes they are taking.
Although rates differ every year, COF is currently set at $86 per credit hour for this semester as well as for spring and summer 2007.
“(The College Opportunity Fund) appears to be a donation,” Robertson said. “It appears that we have control over that money.”
In his pledge, Beauprez emphasized that this program needs time to work out the problems in the system.
“While the College Opportunity Fund needs to be given time to work, it is important that Colorado sets its goals for high priority programs,” Beauprez said in his agenda.
With the funding for higher education being a consistent hot-button issue in politics, there are many directions the future administration can go, but state funding seems to be the recurring pattern in fixing the problem.
“We need to look at where our money is being spent,” Robertson said.
Along with higher education funding, another important issue covered in these agendas was the economy.
“It is important to have a healthy economy for when (students) graduate,” Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said.
The funding for higher education seems to help the economy as well when it comes to parents’ ability to be able to contribute to college costs.
“Parents can put more money into the economy and not education,” Dupont said, referring to possibilities with more funding for higher education.