Boost sought in Colorado college funding |

Boost sought in Colorado college funding

DENVER ” Saying it’s time to restore some of the cuts of the past five years, Gov. Bill Ritter released a higher-education spending proposal Tuesday that would increase funding for state colleges and universities by 8 percent, providing them an extra $59.5 million.

Ritter said the economic future of the state is directly tied to higher education.

Spending more on work-study programs, financial aid and scholarships would make college more affordable and accessible, he said.

“At the same time, we continue to dig higher education out of the financial hole it fell into during the recession,” Ritter said.

The governor plans to release the rest of his budget on Thursday.

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He said the higher education plan includes an increase of $48.6 million to support the state’s universities, colleges and community colleges. These funds include tuition stipends through the College Opportunity Fund and state funding.

He said his budget also adds $7.3 million for need-based financial aid, restores $1.7 million that had been cut from work-study and allocates an additional $800,000 for pre-college programs and scholarships.

The increase to need-based financial aid would benefit more than 4,000 students, he said.

Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, said the proposal is a good start.

Higher education was an easy target when lawmakers had to cut spending because funding wasn’t protected by the constitution. She said state funding for colleges and universities dropped from 22 percent of the state budget in the 1980s to less than 10 percent today.

“He’s actually trying to address the restoration of some of the funding that was cut during the recession that we never paid back,” she said.

House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, said Ritter’s plan does not spell out where cuts would be made in the state budget to pay for it. Republicans have proposed using federal mineral lease revenues by opening up the Roan Plateau to natural gas drilling.

“The devil is in the details, and there are no details, so there must be a lot of devils,” May said.

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