economy hits home for unc students

By Darin Moriki

Although the importance of a college education has increased through the years, so have the average college tuition costs, which in the past year have risen by nearly 9.5 percent at several Colorado universities, including the University of Northern Colorado. According to a recent report released by Colorado’s Department of Higher Education, tuition increases have affected all collegiate institutions throughout the state for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

In comparison to the last fiscal year, this one has reflected tuition hikes that ranged from 5.5 percent for all Colorado community colleges to 9.5 percent for state research institutions, which includes the University of Northern Colorado, University of Colorado in Boulder, and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Some students have tried to appeal to the state legislature to alleviate these costs.

The Associated Students of Colorado, a statewide, student-led organization that is responsible for lobbying in favor of student interests in the state legislature, held a mass rally at the State Capitol on March 3 to protest the state legislature’s decision to cut higher education spending amidst a nationwide economic downturn.

“The issue really is the amount of constraints that our legislature is under,” said Andrew Bateman, the president and chairman of the Associated Students of Colorado, who also serves as the student government vice president at Metropolitan State College of Denver. “Because of Colorado’s constitution, the legislature doesn’t have a great deal of discretion over its budget. And so, when they face budget downturns, like the one that we’re in right now, they often feel like they don’t have a choice. And higher education is often the first parts of the budget that are cut.”

Despite the organization’s proactive support for reducing college costs, the Associated Students of Colorado originally supported tuition hikes, but later changed its stance when the economic downtown began two years ago and has since advocated toward increased support for higher education spending from the state budget to reduce tuition costs for students. Meanwhile, resident tuition costs at UNC increased by $262 between the 2008-2009 and the 2009-2010 academic year from $3,962 to $4,224.

Michelle Quinn, the senior vice president for UNC’s Division of Finance and Administration, said the university will not determine whether or not it is going to propose tuition increases for the next school year until May, when the Colorado legislature proposes its higher education budget.

“I’m fortunate enough, right now, that my parents pay my tuition, but not every student has that,” said Ryan Joy, the legislative affairs director of UNC’s Student Senate. “A lot of students work to pay for their tuition, and if tuition rates go up, it’s going to make it even harder for underprivileged people to come to school. There’s still going to be financial aid out there, but if the prices go up, that’s just one more thing you have to pay for.”

Those that are hit the hardest by these increases are those students who rely heavily on financial assistance from the university and federal government to attend school.

Rebekah Olsen, a 24-year-old senior physics major at UNC, said she would not be able to attend UNC without the assistance of loans and grants from the federal government.

“Because I am so poor, I am able to qualify for grants as well as some really, really good loans, so the tuition increases haven’t had that much of an affect on me,” Olsen said. “But, because I did have to take out a little bit more loans, the interest rates on those loans will eventually accumulate, and that is something I am concerned about.”