Colorado State University announced last week a groundbreaking program to help assure qualified middle- and lower-income Colorado students can afford an education at one of the nation’s top research universities. Colorado State administrators were joined by Gov. Bill Ritter to unveil the “Colorado State University Commitment to Colorado” at the Capitol this morning.
As part of CSU’s Commitment to Colorado, beginning in fall 2011, state resident students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree whose families make $57,000 or less — the median family income in Colorado — will pay only half the standard tuition rate. Using current tuition numbers, this would be annual savings of more than $2,600, the equivalent of getting one semester’s tuition free each academic year. Students from lower-income families who are eligible for Pell grants will not pay any tuition or fees to attend CSU, saving roughly $6,500 annually.
“Access to a high-quality, affordable higher education is one of the hallmarks of the American Dream. It was the key to my success. It is the key to Colorado’s future, and we need to use that key to keep the doors of opportunity wide open to all Coloradans,” Ritter said. “I applaud Colorado State University for taking a big step in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible in Colorado.”
While several schools around the country have offered this type of program to low-income students, CSU is the first in the state and one of only a few universities across the country to make such a commitment to middle-income families.
“With this commitment, we’re making it clear to Colorado students and their families that a world-class university education is an attainable option for all our children, no matter what their family’s income level,” said Tony Frank, president of Colorado State. “We’re making this commitment, in part, as an investment in Colorado, as our state’s economic future depends largely on the kinds of education CSU provides as the campus that graduates more students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics than any other campus in the state. If Colorado is to succeed, broader access to higher education must be an option.”
Colorado State is able to make this commitment because of its careful management of university expenses and reallocation of resources into its financial aid program over the last several years. According to Frank, for the fourth straight year, the largest portion of CSU’s discre- tionary budget has gone to increasing financial aid to help ensure access for talented students with financial need. CSU has also kept its tuition rates below the average of peers nationwide and has focused substantially on containing costs.
Ultimately, the goal — even two to three years out — is to support this with private gifts through the Campaign for Colorado State. CSU’s average student debt remains below the national average, and the number of its first-generation students and students from low-income families remains high and is still increasing. Colorado State is experiencing its third year in a row of record enrollment.
“Access has always been the common cornerstone at each of the CSU System campuses. It is a priority and is prevalent in their unique missions,” said Joe Blake, chancellor of the CSU System.
“The Colorado General Assembly passed and the Governor recently signed Senate Bill 3, providing a reasonable level of operational and financial flexibility to help the state’s public colleges and universities better manage finances, while long-term and sustainable funding solutions are examined by the state,” Blake added. “Colorado State University is stepping up to do the right thing, now, to preserve access and affordability, and to help build a stronger Colorado.”
CSU-Pueblo also unveiled its Commitment to Colorado, a separate program targeted at the needs of that campus.