Students will have the opportunity to vote this spring on whether or not they want their capital construction student fee increased.
Up until recently, only members of UCSU were able to increase capital construction fees. The student vote is the result of a policy proposal implemented recently. Initially proposed at the regent level, the Board of Regents and UCSU decided instead to implement it at the student level. This means that students, not regents, will change the policy regarding who decides to increase capital construction fees.
“It went through the entire Board of Regents and they voted against the policy change, so there was no policy change but they largely agreed with the concept,” said Ryan Biehle, UCSU tri-executive and senior political science major. “We offered to implement it at a campus level. The important concept behind this is that the student government at Boulder has the power to raise their money fees – the students at CU have complete control of their fees at any year.”
The fee has been steadily rising since 2005 when it was determined that the fee was going to be $400, phased in over the course of four years, according to Biehle.
Students will have the opportunity to vote on how they want this policy implemented during the UCSU elections in April.
The capital construction fee goes specifically to the construction of new buildings on campus and a portion to financial aid, according to Regent Tom Lucero.
Since being implemented in 2005, the money from the capital construction fees has gone to the construction of the Wolf Law building, the ATLAS building and the Koelbel Business building.
“Generally I’m opposed to student fees being used for capital construction. I don’t believe that was ever the intent of the student fees because students don’t really have a voice in (the construction),” Lucero said. “But if students want to vote for a $400 fee to build buildings, if that’s what they want to do, more power to them.”
The state of Colorado is traditionally responsible for funding higher education because CU is a public university. Because the state economy was incapable of funding necessary construction on the campus, CU was forced to raise student fees.
“Back in 2005 when they were talking about levying the fee, the state didn’t have or didn’t want to give the money to the campus for the ATLAS building, the Wolf Law building, the business school or the new visual arts complex that’s being built right now,” Biehle said. “That’s why the fee was levied: the state didn’t have the money to build the buildings on campus, so the students were burdened with that. That is a failure on the state for not supporting higher education.”
The state has recently frozen funding for the Visual Arts building that is in the process of being constructed.
The budget for the building is about $63.5 million. The state has provided CU with $18 million and of that $18 million, $7 million has been frozen. The remaining $45 million comes from cash funds: $6 million from the Boulder campus, $9 million in private gifts from donors and $30 million in capital construction fees from the students, according to CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard.
The state froze the $7 million because of a miscommunication between CU and the Colorado government. They were unaware that the visual arts building was in phase three of construction, according to Hilliard.
“We want them to see that we’re really far along and that halting construction would be catastrophic for our campus,” Hilliard said.
The state was planning on cutting funding for projects that the money has already been allocated to, rather than cutting funding for buildings deep into the construction process, according to Hilliard.
“The state can save a lot of money by looking at the projects they’ve approved money for but haven’t actually begun the hard-hat work for,” Hilliard said. “Until that work has begun the state is able to freeze it, it’s much harder to freeze it after the work has begun.”
Hilliard said students capital construction fees will not be affected by the budget cuts in the state department.
Nonetheless, students say they are still upset about how CU manages their budget.
“I just want to know where my money is going each semester,” said Jonathan Yun, a senior accounting major. “I don’t know about the Visual Arts building but I feel like they should have budgeted more.”
Jesse Sexton, a freshman economics major, said he agrees with Yun.
“I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it before,” Sexton said. “I’m curious of A, how that came about and B, what they’re doing to fix it.”
Yun said he is particularly concerned about tuition increase.
“They raise tuition, and they should give us a reason why they’re raising it,” he said.
Biehle attributes the need for the capital construction fees and expensive tuition to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a Colorado initiative passed in 1992.
TABOR is a set of constitutional provisions that limits the revenue growth for state and local governments in Colorado, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures Web site.
TABOR effectively limits how much the state can tax its constituents, putting limits on state funding for higher education.
“Coloradoans don’t want to raise taxes, but in my view taxes are an investment on our future. They go to health care, our roads, our teachers,” Biehle said. “In my opinion, TABOR is what’s starving our state and starving our university, so that’s why students have to pay $400 for capital construction fees.”
In an effort to mobilize the state legislature to make funding for education a higher priority, UCSU is encouraging students to write letters, record videos and get the message to their legislatures.
“We’re going to mobilize the message to the Boulder area and the state of Colorado that student’s can’t afford this,” Biehle said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sara Kassabian at Sara.email@example.com.