Colo. students shoulder bigger share of public college cost

11:28 PM, Dec 19, 2011   |    comments
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A decade ago, the state picked up more than two-thirds of the cost of providing public college courses.

Today, the students pay two-thirds, and the state picks up one-third.

Some officials fear the state's share may eventually become zero.

"That's clearly where we're going," Lt. Governor Joe Garcia said. "If things don't change at all, it could be a matter of a few years."

That would increase an already growing burden on students.

The average tuition for an in-state student at a four-year public university in Colorado went up from $3,128 to $8,370 in the past decade.

Despite that, the state's higher education system has more students enrolled than ever before.

But they're also in record debt.

More than a quarter of a million students are taking on new student loans a year in Colorado, a figure up almost 50 percent from five years ago.

New federal loans in fiscal year 2011 totaled more than $1.2 billion.

Students are having trouble paying those loans back in the recession.

Colorado also has the second highest rate of default on student loans at 11.5 percent.

Students say it's no longer enough to simply get into college and figure out what you want to do with the degree.

"They need to make sure they have a business plan to make sure that they get through school fast," Isaiah McGregory, the student body president at Colorado State University Pueblo, said.

Students keep taking on debt because as hard as it is to find work with a degree, and it's even harder without one.

Garcia says all of this looks bad to businesses who might want to set up shop here.

"Sooner or later people are going to have to decide whether education is worth an investment," Garcia said. "If it's worth an investment, they're going to have to make that investment through perhaps higher taxes."

Republicans point to November's election, when two-thirds of voters said no to Proposition 103, which would have raised taxes for education.

"Voters are not in any mindset to increase taxes," State Senator Nancy Spence (R-Arapahoe) said.

For now, college students will have to hope the state's economy improves, or their share of the cost will keep going up.

On Tuesday, state legislators will hear the latest economic forecast.

If it is more positive, money could be added back to the state budget.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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