Photos: CU-Boulder proposes 8.7 percent tuition hike after $170M sports-facilities-upgrade pitch

Talk about awkward timing. There's no direct connection, monetary or otherwise, between CU-Boulder's proposal for an 8.7 percent tuition hike next year and a plan for a $170 million upgrade to the university's sports facilities; see graphics and more below. But a CU spokesman concedes that the school is already battling perceptions about its priorities based on an assumed link between the two. "We've seen it on social media," says CU's Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend of yours truly), "and we've seen it on the alumni Facebook page. So we've been trying to explain to folks that their tuition is not going for athletic upgrades."

True enough. As reported by the Boulder Daily Camera, the tuition bump -- officially 3.4 percent, but an increase in the number of hours each student pays for brings it to an effective 8.7 percent -- is considerably more modest than the 15.7 percent boost officials suggested last year at this time. (After a public uproar about putting the cost of college out of reach for the average student during a time of economic upheaval, they wound up settling for 5 percent.) Moreover, the amount is in line with tuition increases for recent years, as seen in this Camera mini-chart:

2011-12: 9.3 percent

2010-11: 8.9 percent

2009-10: 8.8 percent

2008-09: 9.3 percent

As for the sports-facilities upgrade, CU-Boulder types stress that funding will not draw upon tuition dollars, student fees or state bucks. Indeed, construction won't start until donors pony up $50 million in seed money -- that's a mighty big seed -- with the remainder of the needed dough to come from private fundraising and assorted athletic department and media revenues. And besides, Hilliard says, the $170 million price tag is considerably less than what other Pac-12 schools are looking at spending to spiff up their athletic facilities.

"This is a pretty modest proposal when you look at what some of them are doing," he notes; chancellor Philip DiStefano maintains that figures of $200 to $300 million are in play elsewhere. Moreover, Hilliard continues, "we've erected more than $700 million in construction related to the academic and student life missions over the last decade. So the spending priorities have been overwhelmingly in favor of academics and student life," including the completion of a new community dining facility.

The largest athletic projects over the past quarter-century or so include a 1991 expansion of CU's Dal Ward Center and new suites at Folsom Field in 2001. A practice gym for basketball and volleyball was built a couple of years ago, but Hilliard says the money to erect it came entirely from "gifts."

Thanks to the proximity of the announcements pertaining to tuition and the athletic facilities, however, these distinctions aren't always getting through.

Continue for more about the CU-Boulder tuition-hike proposal and athletic-facilities plan, including graphics of the planned upgrades.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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