Colorado scholarships could range from $1,000 to $6,000 |

Colorado scholarships could range from $1,000 to $6,000

Berny Morson
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

GREELEY, Colorado ” A proposal headed for the November ballot could provide scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 to eligible students.

That was the preliminary estimate presented Thursday by the Colorado Department of Higher Education staff.

Director David Skaggs emphasized that the numbers are examples of how the program might work based on very broad assumptions.

If the measure is approved for the November ballot and passed, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education would adopt actual regulations to implement the scholarship program. The legislature could also weigh in on the rules.

Skaggs presented his estimates to members of the commission, who met in Greeley. The commission last month asked Skaggs to prepare the estimates amid public questions about how the scholarship program might work.

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The commission voted 5-0 Thursday to support the ballot proposal.

The Colorado Promise Scholarships would be funded by revenue that would result by eliminating a property tax exemption currently enjoyed by the oil and gas industry. The proposal is backed by Gov. Bill Ritter.

Opposition comes from Coloradans for a Stable Economy, funded largely by industry.

Bill Ray, a spokesman for the opponents, said following Skaggs’s presentation, that colleges could raise tuition, reducing any benefits from the program.

“What good is a scholarship if it gets eaten up by higher tuition?” Ray asked.

Ray said higher taxes might lead energy companies to cut back on drilling in Colorado, reducing the amount they pay in severance taxes.

But commission member Patricia Pacey said that’s unlikely.

“The oil and the gas is in Colorado. Where are they going to go?” Pacey said. Other states already have tax rates that are higher than what Colorado would have even if the ballot item passes, Pacey said.

The analysis presented Thursday assumes scholarships would be available to students from families earning up to $102,000 a year. But the actual cap could be different, and it’s not clear how the rules would apply to large families supporting several students in college, Skaggs said.

The analysis also includes the assumption that students would make a financial contribution, by working or with the help of a nonprofit organization. Awards would be affected by amounts of federal aid the student receives.

Students would be expected to maintain a minimal grade point average.

Some portion of the money raised under the program would be given to each of the higher education institutions to distribute as additional aid based on academic merit.

The scholarships would vary depending on the institution a student attends. Students at community colleges, which have low tuition, would receive less than students at more expensive four-year schools.

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