State funding for the university pales in comparison to what out-of-state students pay
Colorado state funding for higher education is so low that out-of-state
tuition is the only way the state’s flagship university can keep up with its
peers, according to officials at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
State funding per student varies greatly among schools in the American
Association of Universities (AAU), of which CU-Boulder is a member.
The CU-Boulder Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis Web site reports the
amount of state funding each of the schools receive per student.
For the 2005-06 school year, the University of Washington received $11,942 for
each resident student. The University of Illinois received $9,703 for each
resident student. The state of Colorado provided only $3,141 per resident, the
lowest among public research universities in the AAU.
With funding from the state so low, CU-Boulder manages to stay afloat by
bringing in students from other states. According to the University’s Web site,
the higher tuition charged for non-residents helps CU-Boulder continue to
finance new research and construction, but also helps keep tuition stay lower for in-
“Nonresident tuition is the source of funds that subsidizes the low in-state
tuition and low state funding,” Lou McClelland, director of institutional
analysis at CU-Boulder, said.
But out-of-state student applications have been dropping for several years now.
According to the CU Boulder Tuition and Aid Advisory Board, after hitting a
peak in 2003, application numbers have dropped 26 percent in two years.
“After 2003, it did drop significantly, at that time we were the fourth most
expensive public school in the country for out of state tuition, now we’re the
ninth most expensive,” Director of Admissions Kevin MacLennan, said.
Students at CU-Boulder pay either thousands more or thousands less in tuition
than those at peer institutions in other states.
Out-of-state tuition at CU-Boulder is much higher than many peer institutions in
the AAU. Nonresidents at CU-Boulder paid $23,539 this year, but nonresidents at the University of
Washington paid $21,282. At the University of Illinois, most nonresidents paid
Starting in spring of 2005, tuition guarantee is available at CU-Boulder for
nonresidents, allowing them to pay the same yearly tuition rate for four years.
“It allows families to plan for four years and lets some of the schools in our
peer group catch up with us,” MacLennan said.
But price is obviously not the deciding factor for most of CU-Boulder’s out of
state students. Nearby ski resorts, mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing
attract many adventure seeking students. But many come just for the nice views.
“The pictures were really pretty,” said Amanda Wight, a junior advertising major from
California who attends CU-Boulder.
Wight said she visited CU-Boulder her senior year in high school.
“I loved the architecture,” Wight said. “It’s been a nice place.”
Resident tuition at CU-Boulder, on the other side of the price range, is lower
than most peer institutions. Most undergraduate residents paid $4,554 for
tuition this year. At the University of Washington, one of CU-Boulder’s peer
institutions, most resident students paid about $5,985 for tuition. At the
University of Illinois, many of this year’s freshmen residents paid $7,708.
According to the Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis Web site, resident
tuition rates for 2005-06 school year increased 28 percent from the year
before. This was because state funding was in its fifth year with no increase.
And even with such a large increase, CU-Boulder’s resident tuition rates were
still below the national average of peer universities.
Although residents were not included when flat rate tuition was introduced,
officials hope to include them eventually.
“We are working towards offering flat rate for in state [students]. It’s harder
to set for in state students because [state] funding has been fluctuating,”
The University of Illinois offers flat-rate tuition to all their students,
resident and nonresident. The University of Washington offers it to no one.
“It’d be nice if in state students had the same opportunity to financially plan
for four years like out-of-state students can,” said Tony Motisi, a
junior architectual engineering major from Colorado who attends CU-Boulder.
McClelland explains how CU-Boulder stays afloat among schools with so much more
money in funding.
“We have, and spend, less per student on infrastructure and support services –
office staff, libraries, dean’s office staff, staff supporting research and
instructional faculty, than our peers,” she said. “We keep our faculty salaries
relatively close to peer salaries, but we have fewer tenured and tenure-track
faculty per student than peers.”
Time will tell if CU-Boulder can continue to compete with peer universities as
nonresident enrollment drops and both nonresident and resident tuition continue
“Ultimately, the state should be held accountable,” Motisi said.