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.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

MAJOR

MEDIUM

MINOR+

MINOR

TECHNICAL

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

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

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

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

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

From the Joint Budget Committee

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

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))

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Council of Higher Education Representatives indefinitely by removing 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 every ten years. Sunset review processes consume state resources.

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