Higher education panel approves strategic plan

7:57 PM, Dec 2, 2010   |    comments
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The commission will submit the report as part of its master plan on Dec. 15.

Commission chairman James Polsfut called the plan "a very thoughtful, very substantive plan to promote higher education."

"I think the report lays out well that Colorado has some choices to make -- what we want for higher education and what resources we're willing to dedicate," said Rico Munn, director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

In its report, the commissioners offered options that may be considered, including raising taxes. But Polsfut said the options are only examples for lawmakers to consider as they approve a budget next year that covers a $1.1 billion shortfall for the budget beginning July 1.

The five potential tax increases include increasing income and sales taxes, expanding the sales tax to specific services, imposing a surcharge on mineral extraction, imposing a 4 mill property tax levy statewide and imposing a 4 mill tax levy in counties where higher education facilities are located. The report said at least two of those options would be needed to meet their goals.

The strategic planning committee recommended that state funding be increased from $550 million to $1 billion to avoid losing ground and close a $476 million inflation gap, but state lawmakers told colleges this week to consider the possibility they may cut even more state funding to $457 million, an option Munn said was inconceivable.

"That is not a good number," Munn told the commission.

Strategic planning co-chair Jim Lyons said other options include providing more state funding, charging higher fees for graduate programs and consolidation of programs, but those were not voted on the commission.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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