POSITION IN BRIEF:

Higher education is a primary educational, research, cultural and economic force in Colorado. The State of Colorado has a responsibility to support its public institutions of higher education and to assist the people of Colorado in attaining a postsecondary education. State activities should be carried out with appropriate input from all concerned parties, including the general public.

Governance:

  • The League believes the state should emphasize coordination rather than control over higher education.
  • The League believes institutional latitude and flexibility should be encouraged but with state oversight.
  • The Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education should be led and staffed by professionals with relevant skills and/or experience and be free from political influence.

Financing:

  • The League supports a sustainable funding mechanism for public higher education that will provide quality postsecondary programs across the state.
  • The League supports sustainable funding for financial aid programs in order to provide access to higher education for all qualified Colorado students.

Access to Higher Education and Persistence by Students:

  • The League believes that all qualified students should have the opportunity to attend postsecondary education and that successful participation should be facilitated by a variety of resources.
  • Preschool, elementary, secondary and postsecondary education should be viewed as a continuum leading to life-long learning.

POSITION: (Adopted 2007)

Higher education is a primary educational, research, cultural and economic force in Colorado. The State of Colorado has a responsibility to support its public institutions of higher education and to assist the people of Colorado in attaining a postsecondary education. Postsecondary education includes vocational, technical, community college, four-year and post-graduate institutions.

State activities should be carried out with appropriate input from all concerned parties, including the general public.

Governance

The League believes the state should emphasize coordination rather than control over higher education.
In addition, the state should act in an advisory capacity and provide oversight in some areas.

  • Possible areas for coordination include:
    • Promotion of quality education
    • Avoidance of unnecessary duplication
    • Promotion of efficiency and good management
    • Maintenance of a comprehensive and cohesive state system of postsecondary education
  • Possible areas for oversight include:
    • Cooperative ventures
    • General standards and requirements
    • Graduation criteria

The League believes institutional latitude and flexibility should be encouraged but with state oversight. Most decisions are more appropriately made at the institutional level. Objectives should be to:

  • Adopt policies at the state level that recognize institutional differences
  • Encourage decision-making that accommodates the unique role, mission, and characteristics of each institution
  • Allow institutions to utilize their expertise to make decisions in areas such as mission, objectives, tuition, degree programs, and student recruitment

The Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education should be led and staffed by professionals with relevant skills and/or experience and be free from political influence.

Financing

The League supports a sustainable funding mechanism for public higher education that will provide quality postsecondary programs across the state. Objectives should be to:

  • Maintain and attract quality teaching staff in order to attract and support quality students as well as research grants
  • Eliminate barriers to higher education funding: constitutional, statutory and other
  • Assure funding of capital construction and controlled maintenance
  • Explore alternative funding for institutions

The League supports sustainable funding for financial aid programs in order to provide access to higher education for all qualified Colorado students. Objectives should be to:

  • Increase state funded need-based financial aid to enable all qualified students to attain a postsecondary education
  • Increase state funded merit-based scholarships to reward and attract high quality Colorado students
  • Provide favorable interest rates on student loans
  • Explore alternative funding for student financial aid

Access to Higher Education and Persistence by Students

The League believes that all qualified students should have the opportunity to attend postsecondary education and that successful participation should be facilitated by a variety of resources. Preschool, elementary, secondary and postsecondary education should be viewed as a continuum leading to life-long learning.

Access and persistence begin with preparation during preschool through grade 12 (P-12). Objectives should include:

  • Implementing effective programs that prepare students for increasingly difficult academic work
  • Maintaining rigorous high school graduation standards and expectations
  • Developing programs, including mentoring, that facilitate positive engagement in learning, use a variety of community resources to support students socially and emotionally, and improve academic performance
  • Assuring that information programs are provided, during middle school and high school, for students and parents regarding academic and financial issues related to attending higher education institutions, as well as information about the variety of options that are available

Access and persistence should be promoted by higher education institutions. Objectives should include:

  • Providing information about each institution to high schools throughout the state
  • Facilitating transition from high school to college, as well as the process for moving from a community college to a four-year institution or for returning to higher education
  • Developing programs, including mentoring, that use a variety of resources to support students socially and emotionally and improve academic performance
  • Assuring ease of transferring credits between institutions of higher education, including the transition from a community college to a four-year institution

Programs promoting access and persistence used in higher education institutions, as well as in Pre-K-12, should be evaluated to assure they are effective and equitable.

Opportunities for vocational and technical education should be increased at the secondary level and at the community college level.

HISTORY

Early in 1985 the legislature passed a bill that called for restructuring of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE). At the 1985 LWVCO Convention, the “structure, finance and governance of higher education in Colorado” was adopted as a two-year study item. The LWVCO consensus in 1987 favored the CCHE as the central policy and coordinating board for higher education in Colorado. The finance part of the original study was never completed.
At the 2005 Convention delegates voted to adopt a new study of Public Higher Education. This included governance, financing, access to higher education and persistence by students. The new consensus position was adopted in 2007.

In 2008 the League supported legislation that clarified the roles of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) and CCHE. In part, the legislation set up a Higher Education Advisory Committee to propose solutions concerning the needs of higher education and provide a liaison between the General Assembly and governing boards of state-supported higher education institutions. With high praises for the work of this committee, both houses unanimously supported its continuance in 2011 when it was renewed through the sunset process.

In fall 2008, the voters approved Amendment #50, Limited Gaming. This constitutional amendment, supported by League, established a new formula for the distribution of new tax revenues with 22% going to gaming towns and 78% going to financial aid in community colleges.

Legislation supported by LWVCO in 2011 enabled colleges and universities to begin capital construction projects sooner, thus saving on future costs. Also, a new Higher Education Federal Mineral Lease Revenues Fund was created to support capital construction and new capital improvement projects. A significant bill, the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4), revised school readiness standards, aligned Pre-K-12 standards and assessments, and required postsecondary and workforce planning at state institutions for the first time.

The League supported several bills in 2011-12 that established statewide transfer agreements to facilitate transfer of credits from community colleges to four-year universities and to recognize prior learning experiences. These transfer agreements included a general core of coursework that could be transferred.

In 2012 the League also supported bills that modified policies and procedures of higher education institutions to improve retention and graduation rates for students, and clarified how the state regulates private institutions of higher education.

In 2013 the League advocated for two important in-state tuition proposals. Colorado ASSET (Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow), which finally passed after four attempts over five years, allows any student who attends a public or private Colorado high school for at least three years and graduates to be given in-state tuition rates. Also passed was Tuition for Military Dependents that allowed dependents of members of the armed forces in Colorado to be eligible for in-state tuition. The League also supported the successful Creation of a Manufacturing Career Pathway bill as a means to increase the opportunities for vocational and technical education beginning in secondary school.

LWVCO supported advances in adult literacy and workforce development. A 2014 bill established a grant fund to support literacy and workforce readiness. In 2015 the percentage of graduates who immediately enroll in a career and technical education program, community college, or four-year higher education institution was added to criteria for performance evaluation of schools.

In 2015 the League supported another in-state tuition bill for any student who is a member of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe with historical ties to Colorado. The student would be eligible for financial aid, but not the College Opportunity Fund. The bill was defeated in the Senate.