According to John Marshall, vice president for student services at Colorado Mesa University, freshmen can expect to pay more for tuition as seniors than they pay this year. Tuition fees for students have been consistently rising and will continue to do so. Marshall says that mandatory state spending for entitlements takes away money that would otherwise be allocated for higher education.
“For years and years, the state of Colorado said, ‘we’ll pay for most of it, and you students, through your tuition fees, will pay for some fraction of it,” Marshall said. In the past, that split had the state paying approximately two-thirds of tuition costs, while students paid the remaining one-third.
“That has absolutely inverted over a short amount of time,” Marshall said. “Now, the student is paying two-thirds of the tuition, and the state is paying the smaller portion.”
In 2002, 73 percent of the tuition burden was shouldered by the state, while students were expected to pay 27 percent. In 2016, state funding covered 35 percent of tuition cost and students paid 65 percent.
An ever-increasing demand for state funds to pay for primary school, Medicaid and other entitlements is responsible for the shrinking state tuition assistance. With the Affordable Care Act, expansions were made to Medicaid that steadily increase the amount of tax money diverted away from higher learning.
“It’s just the reality of the numbers,” Marshall said. “We made a series of public policy choices that have locked in funding streams for priorities such as the K-12 program and Medicaid.”
“The good news for us is that, for about a five-year period, we have been consistently at the bottom of the State of Colorado in terms of percentage growth of tuition fees,” Marshall said. “We’re really proud of that.”
CMU officials are concerned that the rising costs of tuition will affect maintaining the current student populace, as well as encouraging new students to enroll. Officials recognize that the cost of tuition affects student population, and they are trying to find the balance between meeting the needs of the university and making education affordable.
One of the steps CMU has taken to alleviate the financial burden faced by students is to lower the cost of housing for students. This was done to ensure that students have a less expensive option.
“It is the first time we’ve ever done that,” Marshall said. “We usually have some minor increase in room and board.”
With growing mandatory spending on social programs locked into place, Colorado is forced to play the numbers game, and this means that tuition will continue to climb for the foreseeable future. CMU, however, will continue to search for ways to make higher education affordable for students.
“It’s a huge concern of ours,” Marshall said. “We spend half our year agonizing over how to craft a budget that continues to invest in to ensure we’ve got a great faculty, make sure we’ve got good programs and make sure we’ve got a high-quality university without saying yes to everything, because, ultimately, those costs are going to the student.”