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Gambling money craps out for colleges

6:02 AM, Feb 28, 2010   |    comments
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"It is coming in lower. That is a function of the economy," said McCallin, system president of the CCCS which adminstrates over 13 community colleges around the state.

The passage of Amendment 50 allowed residents in Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City to vote for an increase betting limits to $100, add extra games, and extend hours. The CCCS will receive 78 percent of the extra revenue generated from the change.

McCallin says she never expected anything close to $29 million in Amendment 50 money in the first year, maybe more like $7 to $10 million. The latest report shows that the numbers are even lower than that. McCallin says community colleges will only receive between $4 and $4.5 million after the first year of implementation. By law, legislators cannot count on gambling revenue to supplant and decrease in state funding.

McCallin blames the recession for causing fewer people to try their luck at the casino this past year.

"Clearly, it would've been nice to have $29 million," said McCallin. "I'll take $4 to $4.5 million at this point given what's going on in the economy and the rest of the state budget."

The budget has hit the state coffers hard resulting in across-the-board reductions. McCallin says community colleges are looking at a cut next year of at least $12 million at a time when enrollment is up about 20 percent.

"We know we have a cliff in 2011, 2012," said McCallin. "So, it's very likely that tuition is going to have to offset some of the state loss in general fund."

Tuition was just raised 9 percent and McCallin says students should brace for a possible 10 percent increase in each of the next few years

"Affordability for our students is always a huge concern for us," said McCallin. "Working, middle-class is where you really get hit with the tuition increases."

Students at the Community College of Aurora campus are worried that college will become inaccessible to some.

"There's only a certain amount of people in the world who have enough money to pay for higher tuition," said Donita Rasmussen, freshman.

The current average rate is about $2,600 for a full slate of classes at a Colorado Community College. McCallin says compared to other states that is a bargain. But, if tuition went up even several hundred dollars, some students say it would be hard.

"Real hard," said Anthony Noble, freshman. "I have to work another job and it's kind of hard to find a job nowadays."

Princess Murray, freshman, says higher tuition could impact the motivation of teenage students.

"If the economy is low and then we have to keep paying more for tuition, then people are just going to give up, like, what's the point of going to school?"

Even though the initial numbers may be far from original predictions, McCallin says the passage of Amendment 50 will be a big help in the future in paying for instructional costs across the state.

"We're in this for the long-term," said McCallin. "We weren't in it for the first or second year revenues. This is something we knew was going to be a long-term proposition."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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