CSU tuition to increase for fall 2011, but poor students get a break

Under CSU's "Commitment to Colorado," poor students who qualify for federal Pell Grants are promised free tuition starting in 2011, while those whose parents bring in less than $57,000 a year will be offered half-price tuition.

But the CSU Board of Governors is expected to approve big tuition and fee hikes tomorrow for wealthy families to pick up the slack after Colorado granted universities authority to set their own tuition.

The new top-down philosophy at CSU, which has been struggling to cope with a drastic shortfall in state funding, means students who don't qualify for tuition breaks should expect a steep rise in the cost of an education at the state school's main hub in Fort Collins.

CSU has begun to model its school as a hybrid public/private university of sorts -- a move President Tony Frank has said in the past is the only viable survival tactic for schools bleeding from losses in state support.

As the Rocky Mountain Collegian reports, CSU system officials are eying an increase of "9 percent, or $434, for in-state students and a 3 percent, or $622 increase, for out-of-state students" for the 2011-2012 academic year. Both will also pay an additional $1,639 in mandatory fees, the Collegian reports.

That means the typical tuition will reach $5,256 and $21,366 for residents and non-residents, respectively. Specialized programs like the school's lauded professional veterinary programs are likely to come with a bigger price tag.

The hikes come on what could be the tail end of biting yearly tuition hikes -- putting more and more of the burden on individual students instead of the state charged with supporting the school. Over the last ten years, both in-state and out-of-state tuition have about doubled as a result of this trend plus economic downturns, with no reprieve for struggling students.

Now, the school's quasi-socialistic pledge to put more on the backs of the wealthy and throw a bone to the poorer students hopes to quash the fear that schools like CSU will close to the average citizen -- a demographic CSU prides itself in educating.

The increases have yet to inflate to drastic levels, as some wary of the new school-run tuition scenario have predicted. A 9 percent increase for resident students -- like that expected to be approved Thursday -- was already allowed under state law, before universities were given the ability to bolster their campuses with more tuition.

Frank has promised tuition will not get so high that enrollment will drop. It's a balancing act -- no doubt about it. And what's more, economic uncertainty raises some doubts as to whether the "Commitment to Colorado" has what it takes to sustain the university.

Thus far, Frank and CSU officials seem confident the plan will work. And while some students are paying more, they're not paying much more than would be expected. Only time will tell if CSU can save itself -- no thanks to the state.

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J. David McSwane
Contact: J. David McSwane

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