These are all of the higher education bills proposed in the 2021 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

HB21-1067 College Admission Use Of National Test Score (Story (D), Buckner (D)) [Kipp (D), Baisely (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow state institutions of higher education to not use standardized national tests (ACT, SAT) for college admission if they chose.

Description:

Also requires each institution to submit to the state every year a report on their freshman class, including if they required or did not require a test, who submitted a test, broken down by gender, race and ethnicity, percentage of first-generation undergraduate students, percentage of students eligible for Pell grants, and (in years after the first one), data on its previous freshman classes including graduation rates. Data must include students who enrolled in institutions subsequently and who eventually graduated. State must compile this into an annual report for the legislature. State must submit a report by July 2032 on how the optional use of test scores is impacting access to higher education.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Some research has found these test scores are worse predicters of college success than other measures, like GPA, because GPA better captures the skills needed to succeed in college, despite variation from school to school
  • Standardized tests favor better off families that can afford to pay for tutors and practice exams
  • There is a large amount of evidence that these exams exhibit racial biases, due to the types of questions they ask: 57% of Asians, 34% of white students, and just 13% of Hispanics and 8% of Black students hit 1200 on the SAT in a 2019 report from the College Board (company that runs SAT)

In Further Detail: This is a growing nationwide trend, and the University of Colorado has indicated interest in making these tests optional. That is because they are problematic for several reasons. First, they aren’t actually the best gauge of college success. Despite the variance in school quality and difficulty of classes, GPA remains a better gauge according to most research because it demonstrates the skills you need to succeed in college: namely sustained effort over time to master subject material. Standardized tests, on the other hand, are a known quantity you can cram for. Which brings in problem #2: there is a $1 billion industry built up around preparing for these tests. This severely disadvantages lower income families who cannot afford to pay a tutor, pay for practice exams, and pay to take the test multiple times (most schools simply take your best score). A 2015 study found the lowest average SAT scores were from those from families making less than $20,000 a year and the highest were from families making more than $200,000. So the test may not be a gauge of student quality so much as student means to prepare for the exam. And most troubling, the tests have a long history of accusations of racial bias in the composition of the questions. Not intentional for sure, but the data bares it out (IQ tests have similar issues). The issue here is that they are culturally grounded in white experience and so there is some degree of assumed knowledge baked into the exam. The College Board, which itself conducts the SAT and so has no reason to shade the data (quite the contrary), reported enormous racial disparities in achieving high scores on the SAT in 2019, far wider gaps than could be accounted for by problem #2 and wider than known achievement gaps in our schools (though these are closer).

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • These tests have served our institutions well for decades and are the only standardized tool we have to measure apples to apples
  • They are a much lower cost way to differentiate yourself than the myriad of after-school activities some students undertake in order to stand out
  • Much of the achievement gap in test results may be due to known achievement gaps in our entire school system

In Further Detail: These tests have endured because they have served our institutions well over the decades. They are the only standardized tool we have to measure student achievement. The meaning of someone’s GPA can vary wildly depending on what school they attended, what classes they took, and what teachers they had. Someone with a soft 4.0 may in fact be a far worse student than someone with a hard 3.0. But they all take the exact same test. On the issue of prep disparity, the tests are actually a relatively low-cost way to stand out for students compared to the avalanche of after-school activities many students do to try to make their applications stand out in an increasingly crowded landscape. They are also a way for a gifted student who may have struggled with school to demonstrate their talents. Finally, the racial achievement gap may largely just be reporting something we already know from all of the achievement testing we do in our schools: we are failing our students of color from the moment they walk into kindergarten. There is also another danger here: making the test optional means all of those same kids who are currently pouring resources into the test will keep doing so and keep sending in their high scores. And the school will still consider them.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1067

HB21-1192 529 Plan Education Loan Payment Eligible Distribution [Arndt (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Note was not finished before bill was killed

Goal:

Makes paying off student loans an eligible expense from a 529 savings account which shields them from state income tax (up to $10,000).

Description:

Makes paying off student loans an eligible expense from a 529 savings account which shields them from state income tax (up to $10,000).

Requires CollegeInvest, which runs 529s in the state, to provide the state with a secure electronic report containing information on state 529s for the state to administer this deduction. This includes name and social security number and amount of all contributions by Colorado taxpayers, the name and social security number and amount of contribution for taxpayers planning to participate in the bill’s deduction, and the name and social security number and amount of any unqualified distribution out of a plan.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Federal law in 2019 newly allowed student loans to be paid out of 529 accounts, with a lifetime limit of $10,000. This bill is mirroring that effect on the state level. Right now Colorado taxpayers cannot take advantage of this ability on their state taxes in the manner they can for most other 529 payments. With over 800,000 Coloradans owing an average of $34,497 of debt, this is a great potential avenue to use leftover 529 money while still enjoying the tax benefits and not making an “unqualified” distribution

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • As the reporting piece of this bill indicates, this isn’t quite so simple because the state isn’t really equipped to handle the reporting element of this, and the requirements of the bill are quite broad and perhaps not tailored correctly to the required purpose. It is also important to note that anyone can use their 529 money right now to pay off student loans. They will get the federal tax benefit for doing so. They will not get a state tax break, but do we really need to give a tax break in this instance?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1192

HB21-1173 Prohibiting Legacy Preferences In Higher Ed Insts (Pettersen (D), Bridges (D)) [Mullica (D), Gray (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Ban the consideration of past family attendance for admission to institutions of higher education that take state money. These institutions may ask about family relationships in order to collect information

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Legacy admission criteria fosters aristocratic admissions processes where the gates to one of the most important factors in lifetime financial success is guarded in part by if your family member went to the same institution in the past
  • We have significant racial and socio-economic gaps in higher education and legacy admission does not help by penalizing first-generation post-secondary kids
  • The University of Colorado has already taken this step, it is time for the rest of the state to do the same

In Further Detail: When you think about it, so-called legacy admissions are one of the most insidious and aristocratic practices we tolerate in this country. Among the criteria we are choosing from when deciding to admit someone to the school, along with academic success and community achievement and personal essays and trying to create a diverse community of learners (and maybe test scores), we are also using if you have a family member that went to the school. Higher education has never been more important to long-term career and financial success. But we have significant racial and socio-economic disparities in students enrolling in higher education in Colorado. 63% of white students and 67% of middle- to high-income family high schoolers enroll directly in college while only 42% of Latino and 47% of low-income family high schoolers do the same. Much of this gap does not have to do with legacy admissions, but it is indisputable that some of it does. If your family members went to a institution of higher education, they are more likely to be successful. You are already more likely to be able to attend such an institution yourself. Then we give yet another advantage through legacy admission criteria. It is unfair and it makes it harder for first-generation post-secondary students to get into our schools. The University of Colorado has already taken this step, it is time for the rest of the state to do the same.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Legacy admissions are the face of an ugly reality: we underfund our institutions of higher education (badly in this state) and they need a way to ensure some incoming class members will pay full freight and that donations from alumni continue to pour into the school
  • Removing legacy consideration has the potential to damage both of these necessities
  • If we want to go down this path we need to fund our schools better first

In Further Detail: The reality of our situation isn’t pretty but it must be faced head-on. Our institutions of higher education are locked into a structure of ever increasing costs with a state that shows increasing disinclination to fund higher education. We rank nearly dead last in state funding of higher education. It is almost always one of the first things on the chopping block and one of the last things to be restored. And so our institutions have a few things they can do. One is increase tuition, which of course they already do. Another is to ensure that at least some of the incoming class is going to pay full freight and beyond that, that donations from alumni continue to pour into the school. And like it or not, legacy admissions play a role in both of those areas. It is not pretty. It is not fair. But we have not left these schools a lot of other alternatives. If we want to get serious about funding, then maybe we can have a fairer admissions world.


Bottom Line:

  • Diversity is an important aspect of every institution of higher education but that can come in many forms. One form is students with deep attachments to the school and its traditions—and that comes from legacy students

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1173

HB21-1306 Accreditation Of Postsecondary Institutions (Rodriguez (D), Lundeen (R)) [Garnett (D), Geitner (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $98,876
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Allow private colleges or universities to gain accreditation by a body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in addition to bodies recognized by the federal government and for bodies that are programmatic rather than institutional (in other words, bodies that provide accreditation for a single program).

Description:

Expands the ability of private colleges or universities to be operate in the state by expanding their accreditation options. Right now law requires them to be accredited by a body recognized by the federal government. This bill also allows for accreditation by a body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and for bodies that are programmatic rather than institutional (in other words, bodies that provide accreditation for a single program). For programmatic accreditation, the bill requires the scope of the recognition to reflect the accrediting body’s ability to accept a freestanding, single purpose institution.

Bill also allows entities that are currently exempt from the requirements of the state’s private occupational education laws to waive their exempt status in order to apply to operate a private occupational school (they might want to do this to claim accreditation status). There is no guarantee of approval by the state.

Makes it a deceptive trade practice to claim accreditation unless a school has been accredited by one of the allowed organizations.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This provides a lot more flexibility. The Council is the only non-governmental body in the country that provides accreditation for programs, it is highly prestigious and just as capable as the federal government of enforcing standards. There isn’t a good reason not to accept their judgment. We also need to recognize that private occupational or single purpose schools are very much relevant and needed for our future, as more and more jobs require post-secondary education but don’t necessarily need full-blown college or even community college experiences. This bill allows us to bless this programs on a program-by-program basis, and we don’t need to build any sort of new accreditation structure to do it, the Council and the federal government already do accreditation on a programmatic basis

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1306

HB21-1328 Effective Date Of Senate Bill 20-123 (Fields (D), Priola (R)) [Herod (D), Van Winkle (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Changes the date by which student athletes in athletics at Colorado institutions of higher education can receive compensation for the use of their likeness and can hire professional agents (without losing eligibility) from January 2023 to July 2021.

Description:

Changes the date by which student athletes in athletics at Colorado institutions of higher education can receive compensation for the use of their likeness and can hire professional agents (without losing eligibility) from January 2023 to July 2021.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This basically brings us in line with other states that have implemented similar measures in terms of implementation date. The bill last year that made this law originally had a 2021 implementation date and it was only moved to 2023 at the request of the PAC-12 conference (which CU is a member of). Since the genie is going to be out of the bottle this year, it doesn’t make sense to keep waiting two more years and put our schools and our athletes at a disadvantage. Just to reiterate on the underlying bill, in 2019 the NCAA men’s basketball tournament brought in $1.29 billion in television revenue. And college coaches also rake in money, both in direct compensation and from endorsements. Any athlete that is good enough and prominent enough for a company to want to pay them money for an endorsement should be able to do so. College sports is already a cesspool of illegal payments, we are not saving the purity of anything with the current system. This bill also does not pay athletes, so we are not dismantling the notion of a student athlete and not drastically remaking the landscape of college athletics. With several other states moving in this direction too, this is the wave of the future and we need to make sure Colorado is part of it

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Instead of moving implementation up we should be abandoning the underlying concept. The reason we don’t allow student athletes to get paid is because it immediately invites schools to bid for players. The bill bans schools from paying recruits but there will probably be a lot of winking going on as these schools promise to funnel booster money to prospective students in order to get them to attend. The fact that schools currently abuse the system is no reason to make it easier for them to do so, it is a reason to crack down harder on the abuses. And finally many of the best student athletes, certainly the ones who are good enough to earn endorsements, already get paid. They get either a partly or entirely free education, which is worth its weight in gold when it comes to future earnings. Many students also receive stipends and if they need money, can try a part-time job like any other college student. This bill also allows students to sign contracts with agents, another red line in college athletics as we try to delineate between professional and amateur sports

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1328

HB21-1330 Higher Education Student Success (Zenzinger (D), Kirkmeyer (R)) [McCluskie (D), Ricks (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $51.5 million of federal stimulus funds
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Create multiple programs that will use federal stimulus money to help more students attend post-secondary institutions. The biggest program uses $50 $49 million to go to institutions of higher education who can use the money to get students into school who either were accepted in the past two years and never attended or attended in 2019-20 but left the school. This is mostly through direct financial assistance but also will be through support services at the school. The bill also spends $1 million in federal stimulus money to allow schools to award associate’s degrees to students who were in bachelor’s programs, achieved at least 70 credit hours, but then left school. $1.5 million in federal money is spent on a grant program to help high schools increase the number of students who complete financial aid forms. The bill also creates a task force to study this issue and recommend ways to boost completion rates. Bill also repeals requirement that state approve any bachelor’s of applied science degrees for community colleges (leaves approval just to the school’s governing board), creates a task force to study role and mission of each institution of higher education in the state, and allows people who move to the state for a job where the employer will pay tuition costs to qualify for in-state tuition.

Description:

Creates a program inside the existing Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) to provide money to institutions of higher education to undergraduate, in-state students who either: earned some postsecondary credits but did not complete a credential before deciding to leave school for two or more consecutive semesters, or was admitted to a public institution of higher education for the 2019-20 or 2020-21 year but did not enroll in school. Appropriates $50 $49 million in federal stimulus money to this program, to be distributed to schools starting with: 50% of a school’s allocation based on their headcount for the 2019-20 year of undergraduate, in-state students whose expected family contribution to tuition did not exceed 250% of the maximum amount eligible for a federal Pell grant, and 50% based on their full-time equivalent count of the same population. The bill also directs the state to adopt additional criteria based upon location in a rural area of the state, total headcount enrollment, and characteristics unique to a technical college. State can keep up to 5% of the appropriation for administrative costs of the program.

Each institution can get its entire allocation over two academic years, beginning with 2021-22, but in order to get the money, the institution must get a student assistance plan approved by the state first. This plan must specify: population of students that the plan is designed to support, which should focus on populations disproportionately impacted by COVID but can include traditional and non-traditional students; percentage of money that will be directly distributed to students through scholarships, financial aid, or other direct student assistance; student support services that the remaining money will be spent on; specific and measurable goals of the plan which must include increased retention of students and for non-technical colleges, decreased debt; and the metrics that will be used to measure success. State must consider speed and efficiency with which the school plans to spend the money and the plan’s quality and likelihood of success.

Schools must then submit a report after the 2021-22 year detailing their progress and precisely how money was spent, which the state is to review before allocating any more money to any school that hasn’t already gotten 100% of its money. Reports must continue for each academic year where money from the program is being spent. State must report to the legislature for the entire program: amounts allocated to each school, amount spent by each school in direct aid, types of services and supports provided, number of students who re-enrolled, and post-secondary credentials awarded to students in program. Program repeals in July 2026.

Creates the Colorado Re-Engaged Initiative (CORE Initiative) to authorize schools to award associate’s degrees to eligible students who were in bachelor’s degree programs and earned at least 70 credit hours before withdrawing from the school. Other than the credit hours, to be eligible students must also not have transferred to the school from a community college or occupational school and not have been enrolled for at least two consecutive semesters. Bill requires the state to collaborate with school to develop a process to identify these students and award degrees. Students must still request the degree (the bill requires the school to notify them once they are identified). Upon issuing the degree the school must advise the student of opportunities to re-enroll in the bachelor’s program. Schools have to get approval from their accrediting agency to grant the degree. Schools are not to guide any student who is given an associate degree towards another associate program (except for local district colleges, Adams State University, Fort Lewis College, and Colorado Mesa University). Students are eligible for up to 10 years after their last enrolled semester to get the degree. If the student is already eligible for an associate’s degree without this program, then they are ineligible for CORE. Schools must report to the state each year how many students received a degree, types of degrees, and how many students then re-enrolled. State must report this information to legislature. $1 million in federal stimulus money appropriated to program.

Creates a new grant program for providing assistance to high schools to increase number of students who complete financial aid applications before graduating from high school. $1.5 million in federal stimulus money appropriated to program, of which $100,000 may be used for administrative expenses. Applications must include: school’s financial aid completion rate in previous year, goal for the next year, conditions under which the school would waive requirement that application be completed before graduation (this is allowed under the bill), if the school has a partner or intends to partner with either a community-based non-profit or an institution of higher education to help, and how the school intends to use the money. Money can be used for: strategies for increasing student and family awareness of applications and options and costs of post-secondary programs, hiring additional school counselors, and strategies to encourage application to post-secondary programs. State is to prioritize schools with existing partnerships with non-profits or institutions of higher education. Every year that a school receives funding it must report to the state on how the money was used and what the resulting completion rate was. State is to report this information to the legislature. Program expires in July 2026. The bill also creates a working group to examine strategies to increase student completion. Group is to examine best practices across the country to figure out what resources and strategies should be used. At a minimum group must consider: how to leverage community partnerships and incentives and school-based supports which could include a requirement that all students complete an application. Group must also include any legislative, regulatory, or other changes required to implement its recommendations. Report due by January 15, 2022. Group is repealed in July 2022.

Repeals requirement that community colleges receive approval from the state in order to offer bachelor’s degrees in applied science. Approval only needed from the school’s governing boards, which must notify the state of any degrees they approve.

Creates a task force to study the role, mission, and service area of each of the state’s institutions of higher education, which includes local district colleges and area technical colleges. This must include the interaction among these schools and the state workforce development council. Goals include availability and access to post-secondary credential programs throughout the state without undue overlap by ensuring most efficient use of resources, examining service areas to see if they need to be redrawn or even continue at all, ways in which best practices through data and technology can make informed decisions about interventions to drive student success and ensure equitable access which includes minimizing costs, strategies for increasing retention and credential completion which includes addressing debt of students who attend a school but do not complete a credential, strategies for leveraging federal money including possibility of two-year funding of enrollment for each student, review the integration across this space when it comes to designing career pathways and other workforce initiatives to ensure efficacy and efficiency and reduce overlap, and look for other uses of federal stimulus money in higher education. Report due by December 15. Task force repeals July 2022.

Allows any person who moves to Colorado for a job where the employer will pay for the employee’s children’s higher education to qualify for in-state tuition rates immediately. The individual must demonstrate intent to make the state their permanent residence.

Additional Information:

Task force examining roles of institutions of higher education to be convened by commission of higher education. It must include: a representative from the governing board of each institution of higher education, a representative from the board of trustees for each local district college, a representative of the state’s work force development council, two representatives from higher education advocacy groups, at least one representative from the commission itself, and post-secondary student representatives appointed by the commission from a variety of higher education institutions across the state.

The working group for financial aid completion’s members are appointed by the governor. Group is 13 members, composed of: two high school principals, one from a school with more than 1,000 students and one from a school with less than 1,000 students; one school district superintendent; one high school teacher; one high school counselor; a representative of an entity that advocates for immigrant communities; three people representing institutions of higher education, which can be students or employees; and four people who are student advocates, representatives of scholarship or other student support programs, representatives of statewide associations that represent people working in education, or higher education researchers. Governor is to strive for geographic diversity to the extent possible. Members do not receive compensation but can get reimbursement for expenses.


Auto-Repeal: July 2026 for the new COSI program and financial aid grant program, 2022 for task force and working group

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The pandemic hit people without post-secondary credentials the hardest, both economically and in health outcomes. This also meant many people had to leave institutions of higher education or couldn’t even attend at all
  • It is therefore a perfect use of our federal stimulus money to help these people get into or back into schools—remember that a post-secondary credential becomes more critical every year to the ability to get a well-paying and stable job in this country
  • For financial aid, we are 47th in the nation when it comes to completing these free (free!) forms and every year we miss out on about $50 million in federal and state aid as a result. Not all of these kids would attend college even if they completed the form, but some would
  • For CORE, this is just plain common sense. The very worst place to be is having a large amount of student debt and no credential or degree to show for it. If we can award associate’s degrees in appropriate cases, that can help open some doors for employment opportunities and offer an opportunity to re-engage with the individual and maybe get them back into the bachelor’s program

In Further Detail: As is true of most economic crises, the pandemic hit people without post-secondary credentials the hardest. This effect was magnified by the fact that these same people were also often the most vulnerable to the disease itself. In combination, this meant a terrible impact on this population’s financial stability and of course, impacts on the ability for people to enroll or stay enrolled in institutions of higher education. It is therefore entirely appropriate to spend federal stimulus money to try to help people who had to drop out or couldn’t attend school at all. For financial aid, this continues to be a gimme that we are missing. Every year students in the state fail to claim $50 million in state and federal financial aid simply because they don’t complete the free application. We are 47th in the nation right now in completion rate. Could all of these kids attend school if they received the aid? Of course not, some of these kids are not attending regardless for various reasons. But that likely still leaves a lot of kids who could have attended had they only filled out the form (which again, is free!) So spending money and time on both a grant program and a working group to figure out what we can be doing differently is well-worth it. As for the CORE initiative, this is just plain common-sense and should have been done years ago. One of the very worst things anyone coming out of high school can do is pile on student debt and then leave school without any credential or degree of any kind. They get the worst of both worlds. If there’s a chance we can at least get them an associate’s degree, we should be taking it. This of course also gives an opportunity to re-engage the individual and perhaps get them back into school for their bachelor’s. In all of these cases, it is critical to remember just how important a post-secondary degree has become in today’s world. It is very difficult to find a well-paying job that doesn’t require one. For the applied sciences bachelor’s, this is an in-demand degree and streamlining the process for this degree should help our hurting community colleges. When it comes to examining our entire higher education system, we have to face some realities. Enrollment of course declined because of the pandemic (up to 20% in some community colleges), but we also have skyrocketing costs that predate the pandemic and increasing difficulty in the state providing the same type of financial support to these schools to offset the need to increase tuition. Thus the x-ray of the entire system to see if we can’t streamline in some areas to lower overall costs, which in turn would decrease costs to students. When it comes to other potential uses of this money: remember that there are strict restrictions on how it can be spent and it is one-time money: we can’t build any program that will need it to sustain itself over time.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The big re-enrollment program does not require any demonstration of need. Sometimes people leave school or don’t attend for reasons that are not financial (and may have had nothing to do with the pandemic)
  • We should explore spending this large chunk of money on higher education infrastructure, which contributes to rising tuition costs. If we can’t use federal money, then look to switch out some state stimulus money for federal money
  • There are multiple reasons why someone might not apply for financial aid, including they aren’t going to college no matter what, the financial aid won’t be enough for them to go, or they don’t qualify. So we shouldn’t stress so much about our overall ranking, the state just may have more of those kids than most other states
  • We should not be removing state oversight from bachelor’s programs at community colleges, particularly if we are worried about overlap and inefficiency across our higher education landscape

In Further Detail: There is no requirement to demonstrate financial need for a student. There are many reasons why someone may leave school or get into school and then not attend and it is entirely likely that some people did so not because of the pandemic or because they couldn’t afford it. So we should not be spending money to help those folks when we could spend it to help others. It is also worth exploring whether we might be able to use some of this money, or offset state stimulus money we are spending elsewhere that would qualify for federal money, on higher institution infrastructure. Because that is part of what contributes so much to our ever rising tuition costs. Infrastructure is of course both perfect stimulus and perfect one-time spending. Our ranking for financial aid may not be as bad as it seems. There are multiple reasons why someone might not fill out a form, the three most prominent being: the kid is simply not going to college, the financial aid would not be sufficient for the kid to go even if they got it (perhaps they do not qualify academically), or the kid would not qualify for financial aid. Colorado is one of the wealthier states in the country, so that’s box three. We also have a high number of immigrant families that might be checking boxes 1 and 2. So the focus on our ranking here is misguided and we don’t need to be spending a lot of money on working groups or grant programs. We should not be removing state oversight from bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges. It takes up to a year for approval, which isn’t a terribly long time and worth ensuring we don’t have programs out there that are not appropriate. This is doubly true if we are going to have a study that is specifically tasked with looking for removing overlap and inefficiency in our institutions of higher education

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1330

SB21-008 Remove Junior From Certain College Names (Simpson (R)) [D. Valdez (D), Holtorf (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Remove “junior” from name of Trinidad State Junior College, and Otero Junior College, and Northeastern Junior College.

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Renew: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Junior is simply not used much anymore nationwide, in fact these three institutions are three of six junior colleges in the entire country
  • The name junior implies lesserness, and it shows in Internet search rankings and enrollment
  • No one will accidentally enroll in a school that doesn’t offer four-year degrees thinking it does

In Further Detail: Junior college is simply an anachronism. There are only six junior colleges in the entire country and three of them are these three, here in Colorado. The name implies that the schools are somehow lesser than their community college brethren. The community college system believes changing the names will improve the ability of these colleges, which are losing enrollment, to better market themselves and do better in search engine results. As for the issue of not having community in the title, no one is going to accidentally enroll in one of these three schools thinking they are four-year institutions. It is also not at all uncommon for a community college to lack the word “community in its name in the United States. It turns out Northeastern Junior College and the community around it doesn't want to change its name right now.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This yanks things in the opposite direction of fairness. These institutions are not four-year colleges, if we want to remove the “junior” from the title then it needs to be replaced with “community”

In Further Detail: Names mean something. An institution of higher education that does not give out four-year Bachelor’s degrees is not a college. It is either a community college or a junior college. Of course no one is going to actually enroll in one of these institutions without understanding this fact, but the confusion is the point, in particular with what a degree from one of these institutions means. If junior implies being lesser, than lacking “community” in the title implies being better. There are eleven other community colleges in Colorado that don’t deserve the implication they are lesser than these three. The very things these three are complaining about in terms of marketing and search engine results would start to happen to the eleven other community colleges in the state.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-008

SB21-029 Colorado American Indian Tribes In-state Tuition (Fenberg (D)) [Garnett (D), Benavidez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $240,000 a year to state, $3 million to schools in lost tuition

Goal:

  • Allow members of American Indian tribes with historical ties to Colorado to qualify for in-state tuition regardless of if they live in Colorado or not.

Description:

Allows members of American Indian tribes with historical ties to Colorado to qualify for in-state tuition regardless of if they live in Colorado or not. They are also eligible for all in-state financial aid programs and stipends. These students do not count toward any other in-state statistics. Fort Lewis College is exempt, due to its historic commitment to American Indian Education.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The US has long recognized that American Indian tribes are quasi-sovereign entities, so being part of one based in Colorado makes someone a Colorado resident
  • We have a long history of forced relocation of American Indians, which means that some members of those tribes that lived in Colorado were forced to move away and can only get in-state tuition in their current state of residence
  • American Indians have the lowest levels of college attendance and highest levels of poverty of any surveyed group in the US—they need the extra help and frankly deserve it

In Further Detail: The US Supreme Court recognized American Indian tribes as quasi-sovereign entities in 1974 (Morton v. Mancari), so being part of a tribe is akin to membership in a nation. When that nation was historically located in Colorado, it is hard to argue that but for past forced relocations, these people would be able to attend institutions of higher education in Colorado at in-state tuition rates. When you combine this with the fact that American Indians have the lowest levels of college attendance (19% compared to the average of 41%) and highest levels of poverty, 26%, of any measured group, the moral case for making it easier for those who ancestors lived in the state to attend college here is clear. 33% of American Indian children under the age of 18 live in poverty and part of the reason why is how this country has treated them over the course of hundreds of years, including right here in Colorado. We cannot fix the past. But we can make amends in the present. Our institutions of higher learning will be all the better for the increased diversity of backgrounds.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • While what occurred in the past was a tragedy, anyone is free to move to Colorado now
  • Helping lift people out of poverty through education is noble goal that should be colorblind

In Further Detail: No one is denying that the American Indians were cruelly and wrongly treated. But no one is preventing anyone from living in Colorado right now. So we should not extend in-state tuition rates to someone who chooses not to live here. And while helping lift people out of poverty through education is a worthy goal, it should be one that doesn’t care about ethnicity. Because we are dealing with finite resources here. Our institutions of higher education in this state are struggling badly with financial resources and everyone they have to admit at lower tuition rates is less money they have—which has to either come out of the state budget (less and less likely these days) or higher tuition costs to everyone else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-029

SB21-057 Private Lenders Of Student Loans Acts And Practices (Winter (D), Gonzales (D)) [Gray (D), Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: The bill deals entirely with loans made by private companies that are not federally backed for postsecondary education expenses (popularly known as student loans). Cosigners are people who a lender requires cosign a loan to provide security: they do not actually pay the loan but they are on the hook in case of default. This does not include spouses. Parts of the bill that relate to new loans apply to those made after August 31, 2021.

  • Requiring release from the loan if a party experiences permanent disability, for the cosigner this is simply release from being a cosigner, for the borrower, it is complete release from the loan itself for both parties, regardless of cosigner’s status
  • Any modified or flexible repayment options must be offered to all borrowers and must be both displayed on the lender’s website and consistently presented to borrowers in similar financial circumstances. Loans are banned from including clauses permitting acceleration of payments from the original schedule unless the loan is in default. For already existing loans, payment accelerations can only occur if they specifically authorized by the existing agreement
  • Sets strict debt collection information standards which any company attempting to collect debt on a loan must abide by, including, in addition to other items, the original lender’s name and the borrower’s account number with them, a schedule of all transactions associated with the loan, and more detailed information that must be provided upon the borrower’s request, including proof that the company is acting on behalf of the debt-holder, a complete call log of all attempts made to contact the borrower in the last 12 months, and more (See Description for complete list). Bill sets up punishments for companies that do not obey these standards and for those that violate other provisions of this bill
  • Bans making loans based upon security of any wages or other compensation earned by the borrower. It does not specifically exclude income-based loan repayments (where the amount you pay each month is based on your income), but does not appear to target them either
  • Extend further protections to cosigners of loans, including a process for release from the loan if full payments are made on it for a year, and restrictions on putting a loan into default because the cosigner died or declared bankruptcy. Further protections are detailed in the Description section
  • Have all private student loan companies register with the state and provide basic statistics of their operation in Colorado, which the state will then post on its website

Description:

We’ll go through each section in a little more detail here, then finish them out in Additional Information. First, loans that are secured by real property excluded from this bill, as are extensions of credit if the term is 90 days or less or an interest rate is not applied to the credit balance and the term is less than one year.

  • For permanent disability, this is someone who is deemed unemployable, either by the federal government’s veteran’s affairs administration or is unable to engage in any sustained activity without fear of death and has been in that state for at least a year. Lenders are barred from monitoring the disability status of the borrower after they are released from the loan. They have 30 days to notify the borrower and the cosigner (if applicable) of release. Lenders cannot require the borrower to obtain another cosigner if the cosigner is released in this manner and cannot declare default or accelerate terms either
  • Lenders must provide a disclosure to those who are consolidating multiple loans into one of any benefits they would lose based on the consolidation
  • Lenders cannot put a loan in default or accelerate payments while a borrower is seeking modified or flexible terms unless the loan is over 90 days in default
  • In addition to what was listed in the goals section (original lender name, account number, schedule of all transactions), debt collectors must also provide the following in their first communication with the borrower: name of the current owner of the debt, name of everyone who has held the debt, amount due at time of default, copy of all pages of the contract or other documents that state the terms and conditions of the loan, and a clear statement of what other information the borrower has the right to ask for.
  • Requests from the borrower for further information from collectors must be made within 30 days. In addition to what was listed in the goals section (call log and proof the company is acting on the behalf of the debt owner), borrowers may request: date the loan was incurred, itemization of interest and fees and who imposed them, billing statement or other record indicating date of first missed or partial payment, billing statement or other record indicating date of last payment, statement of any payments received by other parties like a cosigner, copy of the form the original lender used to determine needs before making the loan, date of each transfer of the loan to a new owner
  • Before initiating default, lenders must notify the borrower. This must be done at least 30 days but not more than 100 days before action is taken. Any collection attempts must also have notification. Lenders have six years after a failed payment to take action against a borrower.
  • Cosigner release must be granted if the borrower has made a year’s worth of timely payments. The payments do not have to have occurred each month. Cosigners must be given disclosures by the lender about how this will affect their credit, how they will be informed in the case of delinquency, and their eligibility for release from the loan. The notice about release must be sent every year and if the loan meets the release criteria, the lender must send written notification by mail and by e-mail. Loans that were made prior to the September cutoff in this bill must include information about whatever other criteria is required for cosigner release. Borrowers can appeal decisions about release
  • Cosigners must be given access to all documents or records associated with the loan that are available to the borrower, but the borrower’s contact information may be redacted upon the borrower’s request
  • Lenders are banned from making any changes to the terms or benefits of the loan or payment terms in the case of cosigner death or bankruptcy and subsequent removal from the loan
  • For registration, companies must provide a complete list of schools they’ve provided Colorado borrowers with loans for, annual volume of loans to Colorado borrowers and break that down by school, the default rate for Colorado borrowers, a copy of the template used to prove the loan exists, and the names and addresses of all officers, directors, partners, and owners. State can bar a lender from operating in Colorado for 10 years for knowingly violating this section and thereby causing harm to a consumer. It can also order a loan to be rescinded. Individuals who knowingly violate the section commit a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of $5,000 and/or one year in prison
  • Violating the provisions of this bill carries liability of actual damages, three times the amount the lender collected from the violated borrower, any additional punitive damages from the court, and reasonable attorney fees for the borrower. It is also a deceptive trade practice

Additional Information:

  • Federally chartered banks, savings banks, savings and loan associations, and credit unions are excluded from the requirements of the bill
  • Registration with the state may also include a fee
  • If an application for cosigner release is missing required information, the lender must provide written notification, including the deadline for providing the information
  • Applications for cosigner release must be processed within 30 days. If the release is denied, borrowers can request any documentation used by the lender to make their decision. Lenders cannot create terms that permanently bar cosigners from release and cannot restrict the number of times cosigners apply for release. They also cannot impose any negative actions on the borrower during the application and decision process for release
  • If a borrower requests a change in terms that resets the one-year clock for payments required for cosigner release, the lender must notify the borrower and cosigner of the impact of the change and allow the borrower to withdraw the request if they wish
  • If the borrower appeals a denied release they must be allowed to submit new material proving they don’t need the cosigner and they are allowed to request that a different employee review the appeal
  • The disclosure form for consolidating loans must fit on one page and have type that is at least 12 points. It must be written in simple, clear, understandable, and easily readable language
  • Lenders must maintain accurate records so as to fulfill the requirements of this bill and must keep records for individual loans for at least six years after they are terminated. State must not make public confidential information in these records
  • Lenders who wish to take court action against borrowers must provide the court: a copy of the notice sent to the borrower, date of first missed or partial payment, date of last payment, copy of the form the original lender used to determine needs before making the loan, statement as to if the lender is willing to renegotiate the debt, statement as to if the debt is eligible for modified or flexible payment options, and a statement if the debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy
  • If a lender violates these requirements, they can be sued by the borrower. Victory results in setting aside the initial order of payment from the court, judgment in favor of the borrower, the greater of actual damages or $500, restitution of all money taken from the borrower after judgment, punitive damages, injunctive relief, correction of the borrower’s credit, and legal fees
  • If a lender provides the court false information, then the borrower gets greater of triple damages or $1,000
  • Borrowers or cosigners who believe they’ve suffered damage from violations of this bill can also sue, victory brings greater of $500 or actual damages, order stopping the lender or collector from the bad practices that led to the suit, restoring credit rating, punitive damages, and legal fees
  • Any court action brought under this bill must be done within six years of the violation or the last in the series of violations or when the plaintiff should have reasonably discovered the violations. You can get a one-year extension if you can prove that the defendant was taking action designed to run out the clock


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • These protections are broadly similar to what is offered for student loans from the federal government
  • A lot going on here but in essence this bill is about transparency and fairness. No secret terms for some people and not others, no collecting debt without full transparency and proof the process is legit, and letting the public see which companies do well in this field and which ones do not
  • This is also about cosigners, which are pretty common for student loans, and advancing the idea of self-reliance: there is a point in a loan’s history where it is pretty clear we don’t need the cosigner anymore and so they should be relieved of their burden. It is also about fairness to the borrower here: bad actions by the cosigner should not doom the borrower
  • No one should be siphoning off portions of their income to service a student loan—payment terms are not like wage garnishments done by the IRS
  • If people can’t work, then they can’t work and if they can’t work, they can’t be expected to pay off a loan

In Further Detail: Over half of Colorado students graduate with debt and it averages, averages mind you, over $26,000. We’ve got around a quarter of a million student loan borrowers in the state. A lot of what this bill is doing is simply ensuring the fair dissemination of information: what do you have to do to get off a loan as a cosigner, what is the past performance of various loan companies, what are the exact details of a debt collection situation, what happens if you consolidate your loans, etc. It is also of course about fairness. No secret renegotiation terms for some and not others. No hidden information from cosigners. No punishing borrowers because of actions taken by (or in tragic cases, the death of) cosigners. No hidden requirements for removing a cosigner. And not keeping cosigners on the loan after it is demonstrated it is not necessary. If someone can make a full year’s worth of payments, they’ve proven they can be solely responsible for a loan. And no tampering with people’s wages. This is not at all an attack on income-based repayment plans, which are a great tool for some borrowers to gain flexibility (your monthly payment amount scales according to your income, total amount owed does not change so just the term does). In fact, the bill would require that if a lender offers one of these it must offer it to everyone who qualifies. All the wage section does is ensure nothing like garnishment is occurring, where a lender is siphoning off set amounts of your income. The permanent disability section is pretty clear: if you can’t work because doing so would kill you, then obviously you can’t pay off a student loan. The key here is that the bill requires this to be medically determined and it requires it to last for a period of year. Could a medical practitioner commit fraud to help someone pretend? It’s possible of course but now you are so far afield of common practice (having a disability this total is also pretty rare) and in an area where there are other legal remedies available. We can’t sacrifice good honest people on the altar of what criminals might do. If there is criminal fraud, there are legal avenues to remedy it already available.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a very complicated maze of red tape with some requirements that may prove difficult to meet in practice which adds up to too much interference in private businesses and could lead to lenders being less willing to loan money to more marginal applicants
  • The cosigner release provision (year of payments) is too broad and does not do enough to take into account individual circumstances
  • The permanent disability clause could be abused by borrowers to get out entirely from underneath a loan—it is not very rigorous as written
  • The clause about income could be construed as banning income-based repayment plans

In Further Detail: In all this is a massive amount of red tape. Some of it is annoying but navigable, like releasing your stats for the government to parade in front of the public. But in particular the clauses about offering everyone the same modified or flexible terms, the prohibition on acceleration clauses in cases that don’t involve default, and the ease by which cosigners can get out of the loan may make lenders balk at loaning money to more marginal applicants. No two situations are truly alike and trying to fit it all into this one-size mandate usually means people will just draw back from the riskier options. Which brings us to the income-related clause. It may be that the bill does not intend to ban income-based repayment plans. But these plans seem to meet the definition of banned behavior: determining the amount of monthly payment and adjusting the term of the loan based on income. These plans have gained popularity recently because they allow people who earn a lot out of school to get out from under their loan more quickly and those who do not are free to pick a lower earning position without fear of defaulting on their loan. Some of the other red tape may prove hard to do in practice. Companies will be forced to rely upon the good records of other companies, with no ability to control the situation. Poor recording keeping at one company could affect another one ten years later if they are unable to come up with something like an account number or complete interest and fee assessment information. Finally, the permanent disability clause is too vague. The part dealing with the VA is fine, but medically determinable physical or mental impairment that makes someone unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity without an expectation of death is vaguer than it may appear on the surface. And given that the prize is so large for success, getting out completely from your loan obligation, it may be a tempting target for fraud.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-057

SB21-083 Higher Education Student Financial Assistance Funding (Hansen (D)) [Herod (D)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Potential savings of $265 million on student aid spending

Goal:

  • Temporarily pause a requirement of state law that any increase in funding for higher education from the general fund is matched by an increase of the same percentage in funding for student financial assistance programs. Under the bill this law would only apply to any increases about 2019-20 funding levels

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We had to slash spending enormously last year due to COVID-related budget shortfalls, but spared student aid as much as possible. Reverting to pre-COVID higher education spending but being able to ignore current law around aid increases would restore the status quo
  • Without this bill, we’d have to spend an addition $265 million on student aid if we restore higher education funding. That is a large amount of money that cannot easily be scrounged up, it will take a huge bite out of other funding

In Further Detail: We had a unique event last year that caused a huge slash in the funding of higher education. But underwriters made sure to spare tuition assistance programs as much as possible. Now that we are trying to restore funding, it would greatly increase the burden on the budget to have to increase tuition assistance and cut contrary to the spirit of the law: we aren’t trying to short-shrift student aid, we actually went out of our way to save it last year. We are just attempting to restore the status quo and have the flexibility in the budget to do what is right by everyone. The budget is a zero-sum game: any money spent here (and we are talking about a potential $265 million increase in student aid funding required) cannot be spent elsewhere. If the budget ends up spending more on higher education than in 2019-20, then it will be forced into increasing student aid spending as well

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The law is intended to force lawmakers to devote as much proportional increases to student aid as they do to higher education funding. And with college tuition costs continuing to skyrocket with no end in sight, it is clear that more and more student aid will be needed in the future. So if we are forced to spend more on it this year due to law, good. It’s necessary.

In Further Detail: The law is designed to make sure we don’t ignore aid when increasing direct funding to our institutions of higher education. The University of Colorado is already making noises about a 3% tuition increase. Tuition all over the country continues to skyrocket with no end in sight and a college degree continues to become more and more important to lifetime earnings and employment. So you could easily argue that we weren’t spending enough on student aid prior to the pandemic and this forced increase will just help us gain a new, more proper, balance rather than just look to restore the status quo.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-083

SB21-109 Bond Payments For Auraria Higher Education Center (Hansen (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D), Herod (D)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $5.5 million in general and cash funds
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Fund payments for revenue bonds for the Aurora Higher Education Center (AHEC) with state money just for the current and next fiscal years. Appropriates $5.5 million from both general fund and cash funds from the current fiscal year to do so

Description:

The AHEC is ordinarily forbidden to fund payment for its bonds from anything other than revenues generated by its auxiliary facilities. These are operations that include things like the student union, campus bookstore, and parking. The AHEC consists of three different institutions of higher education with a combined student population of approximately 42,000. The Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University, and the University of Colorado Denver also share classroom space, parking, and general services with the AHEC campus. The AHEC did not meet federal guidelines for CARES act funding.

The cash funds the bill uses are: $1.4 million from the Trustees of Metropolitan State University, $1 million from the Regents of the University of Colorado, and $380,000 from the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Colleges.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The pandemic devasted the ability for AHEC to collect its usual revenues and its structure made it ineligible for federal relief from the CARES act. Thus it is in a dangerous position of potentially being unable to meet its debt requirements
  • The three institutions that benefit from AHEC facilities and also were able to benefit from federal CARES act money owe it to AHEC and all of us to help salvage the situation
  • A temporary solution that is in essence similar to what we did with the CARES act all over the country is the answer

In Further Detail: We cannot let an institution that serves 42,000 students fail to make debt payments through actions that were no fault of theirs. The pandemic devasted the ability for AHEC to collect its usual auxiliary revenues which rely heavily on in-person transactions. The CARES act could not come to the rescue the way it did for so many others, including the very institutions that rely on AHEC for some of their facilities. The obvious solution is a one-time payment of money that in many ways mirrors what we did with the CARES act to keep AHEC going. It is only fair that the three institutions who benefit from their facilities pitch in.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-109

SB21-100 Sunset Continue Council Higher Education Representatives (Buckner (D)) [McCluskie (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Council of Higher Education Representatives indefinitely through September 2031 by removing and remove its sunset review. Was set to expire in September.

Description:

This council is tasked with streamlining transferability between public institutions of higher education.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The Department of Regulatory Agencies’ sunset review recommended the council continue
  • This is a problem that will never entirely disappear and this council is the only current place where both two-year and four-year institutions work together

In Further Detail: From the sunset review report: “The Colorado system of higher education exists in a challenging environment. The challenges within this environment are exacerbated by declining state support and increased costs passed on to consumers of the system. The Council’s collaborative, inclusive and systemic work serves to alleviate many of the challenges that students and their families encounter as they endeavor to complete degrees in a timely and cost-effective manner. As such, the Council is a collaborative, problem-solving body and it should continue moving forward.” The report also notes that the council was given a fresh mandate just last year, so it has plenty of work still to do. And this challenge will never go away, so we don’t need to keep re-examining the council doing a sunset review every ten years. Sunset review processes consume state resources. Having the council expire in law will require legislators to renew it, which will require another look to ensure it is still necessary

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The agency has work for now, but in ten years it might not have designated assignments. We use sunset review to ensure we don’t have programs or councils that don’t do anything. That too consumes state resources. Continue the council, but not indefinitely

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-100

SB21-179 Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Advisory Board (Zenzinger (D), Kirkmeyer (R)) [Kipp (D), Lynch (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Change the composition of the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Advisory Board by entirely removing the executive committee of the state work force development council, expanding the other appointments from three to 15 and removing the governor as the appointing authority
  • Also gives board members a $75 per diem (unless they are state salaried employees) and reimbursement for expenses

Description:

Bill keeps the current three appointees (one representing 4 year research institutions, one representing four-year postsecondary institutions, and one representing community and technical colleges) but moves their appointment to the director of the department of labor and the director of the department of higher education. Those two also appoint four others: one person representing workforce centers, one person representing economic development corporations, and one person who is a current or former participant of the initiative for a two-year public institution of higher education and one current or former participant for a four-year public institution of higher education.

Four people from the work force development council do get back onto the board, but through appointment by the director of the department of labor. Four more appointed by director of department of higher education from either the state commission on higher education or the advisory committee to that commission.

Current members appointed by the governor serve to the end of their term.

The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative seeks to couple tuition assistance and student supports to ensure that every Colorado student has affordable access to postsecondary opportunities, and can complete a degree or certificate necessary to enter their desired position in Colorado’s workforce.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This program has been around for six years and we’ve recognized that we don’t have the right mix of voices in the board—there is almost no representation from the higher education community and no student voices at all. That is unusual for boards like this and it is not at all uncommon to have voices from the grantee population on the board deciding on the grants

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This puts too many voices from the grantee community on the board making grant decisions

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-179

SB21-191 Residency Requirement Western Colorado University Board (Donovan (D)) [McLachlan (D), McCluskie (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Remove requirement that student member of the board of trustees of Western Colorado University have resided in Colorado for at least three years prior to their election

Description:

The student membership on this board is advisory and does not attend executive sessions of the board. This position is elected by students of the school.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The point of having a student on the board in an advisory capacity is to get student perspectives on the board and a student voice in most board discussions. How long the student has resided in Colorado is not relevant, remember this is a person elected by their peers to the position, we don’t have to worry about some freshman who has no real idea about the Western Colorado campus or community being put on the board

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The point of the residency requirement is that we want someone with some ties to the campus on the board, not a transfer student or someone who is fairly new to campus

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-191

SB21-215 Use Of Open Educational Resources In Higher Education (Hansen (D), Rankin (R)) [Herod (D), McCluskie (D)]

Note: This bill is part of the overall budget package

From the Joint Budget Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $1,108,200
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Give more money to an existing grant program designed to help institutions of higher education create courses that don’t have any associated textbook or course materials costs for students, and expand the program to include grants for entire degree programs that have zero textbook costs. Extend this entire program through 2026.

Description:

Expands the existing open education resources grant program, which promotes the usage of teaching, learning, and research resources at institutions of higher education that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits free use and repurposing by others, to give grants to develop and replicate entire zero-textbook-cost degree programs (that is a degree that does not require a student to spend any money on a textbook at any point). Must prioritize high-demand industry credential programs and high-enrollment degree programs such as information technology programs, health care, and business. Appropriates $1,108,200 to the program.

Bill requires students be notified at the point of course registration which courses use open educational resources prior to registration by fall 2025 (must already inform them prior to registration by this fall).

State must report to the legislature each year on implementation throughout the state, including degree to which all public institutions are using open education resources, descriptions and evaluations of the various programs, number and percentage of courses that qualify, number and percentage of zero-textbook-cost programs, open education resources created by the grant program, and the completion and pass rates for these courses versus non open education courses.

Program was set to repeal this November, bill extends it to November 2026.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: November 2026

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This program began in 2018 and students have already saved almost $4 million in textbook costs. The costs of these books has skyrocketed and now it is estimated that a student could spend on average between $900 and $1,800 for books and course materials in just one year. The grant program spent just $550,000 to achieve these savings, so it makes sense to go back for more and aim for bigger goals: entire degree programs where students do not have to pay money for textbooks

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a situation somewhat reminiscent of the news media and the Internet. Academia is not a terribly financially rewarding profession in general, just like journalism, and a chunk of money academics make is through these textbooks and course materials. Everyone loves free, until of course getting everything for free means that no one produces the content anymore. So while it is appropriate to crack down on some of the abuses in this field, we should be careful not to cut-off content creation. We do not want to look back in ten years and wonder why all of our educational content is old or lousy

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-215

SB21-232 Displaced Workers Grant (Zenzinger (D), Kirkmeyer (R)) [Kipp (D), Bird (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $15 million of federal stimulus money
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Spend $15 million of federal stimulus money on an existing fund that helps workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic achieve a degree/credential in a high-demand field through 6 colleges located throughout Colorado. This includes support in enrollment, financial aid and scholarships, 1:1 support to ensure progression toward credential/degree completion, and connection and transition to the workforce.

Description:

Appropriates $15 million of federal stimulus money to the state’s opportunity scholarship initiative’s displaced workers grant fund. The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) is a 1:1 matching grant program to create a network of student support and scholarship programs throughout the state to boost attainment of post-secondary education credentials. Its displaced workers fund works with six colleges across the state to support workers affected by the pandemic and provide participants support in accessing and completing their credential or degree. This includes support in enrollment, financial aid and scholarships, 1:1 support to ensure progression toward credential/degree completion, and connection and transition to the workforce. The credentials in the program align with jobs identified by the state as being in high demand. To be eligible someone must have lost their job due to the pandemic and be able to complete a credential/degree by June 2022.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • $15 million will help us serve at least 3,000 Coloradans who lost work due to the pandemic and provide them with a boost toward securing a credential that will help them get a new, and potentially more lucrative, job
  • This also helps participating institutions of higher education scale high-demand programs with more students
  • We have $700 million (now $800 million) to spend from last year’s budget thanks to higher than expected tax revenue, this is a great way to spend part of it. An investment in our work force

In Further Detail: Increasing investments in displaced workers will provide them with the skills, supports and credentials necessary to secure good jobs. The $15 million should allow us to serve at least 3,000 displaced Colorado workers across the state and give them a boost to securing a credential that will not only help them get a new job but potentially a more lucrative job. This well as help institutions of higher education scale high-demand programs with more students. This is a great way to spend some of the $700 (now $800) million we have in surplus from last year’s budget thanks to higher than expected tax revenues. It is an investment in our work force to help Coloradans come out of the pandemic in a better economic position than they were when this all began.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is not directly stimulative, as we are making a more long-term investment in people’s job prospects instead of providing direct funds injected into our economy now to get it back to pre-pandemic levels
  • This excludes people who may not have lost their job due to the pandemic but do want to achieve a credential like this program offers and improve their future job and earnings prospects