Colorado Springs Gazette

September 5, 2000

A recent Gazette editorial calls TABOR, the 1992 voter approved amendment to the  Colorado Constitution,  an opportunity rather than a hindrance to higher education. 

It is true that substantially less than half of the operating revenue of our state colleges and universities comes from state tax revenues, putting Colorado very near the bottom of the nation in state funding per student.   However, it is incorrect to suggest that institutions of higher education can rely increasingly on student paid tuition and fees to make up shortfalls in funding. 

One of the less understood provisions of TABOR is that student paid tuition and fees are part of  annual state revenue.  TABOR goes beyond requiring voter approval for new taxes to restricting the level of growth in state revenues from existing taxes, fees  AND tuition. The refunds from surplus revenues that we have been receiving are paid, in part, by the tuition of students.  

As in the rest of the nation, we expect that an ever greater share of Colorado's  population will aspire to higher education. But new tuition dollars from more students will simply push state revenues farther above the TABOR calculated formula for allowable revenue.  New tuition dollars can contribute to larger tax refunds or tax cuts but not to providing more higher education services.  This puts at risk the ability to provide for additional students and to operate competitively in the knowledge based new economy. 

Daphne Greenwood, Director and Professor of Economics 

Center for Colorado Policy Studies 

CU- Colorado Springs