Shouldn’t College Opportunity Fund treat all equally?

Some of the Colorado tax dollars that support higher education follow the student to whatever college he or she chooses to attend, instead of being directed by politicians. That’s good.

But the formula for allocating those College Opportunity Fund dollars (known as the COF stipend) is politically stacked to favor government–run colleges over independent colleges—and that’s not good.

It works this way:

Suppose the Smith twins, Bob and Barb, graduated last year from East High. Because Bob chose CU, a government–run college, he got an $1860 boost from the state toward this year’s tuition, via the COF stipend.

But Barb’s COF stipend was only worth $930, half of what her brother got, because she chose DU, an independently–run college.

How was that fair? It wasn’t. How did it serve the public interest? It didn’t. Shouldn’t there be a law equalizing educational opportunities for all students who receive the COF stipend? There should.

To establish fairness and serve the public interest, and the Colorado House of Representatives is now considering just such a law.

House Bill 1168 calls for the stipend to be equal in value for every Bob or Barb who gets a Colorado diploma, demonstrates financial need, and enrolls at a participating Colorado campus, whether public or private.

The bill is rated at zero fiscal impact, meaning it will not spend a single additional dollar of taxpayer money in these tough budgetary times. It simply cuts up the existing COF pie into pieces of exactly the same size for all the students who get a stipend.

HB–1168 was approved by the House Education Committee on Feb. 28 with a bipartisan 8–5 majority. It won preliminary approval by the full House on March 11, and faces a final vote in the House the week of March 14.

The bill faces tough hurdles in passing a Democrat–run state Senate and then obtaining Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature to become law. But if enough Coloradans signal their support to legislators in both parties and both houses, it could happen.

In my opinion, HB–1168 is fundamentally fair in treating all students equally, fiscally responsible in holding spending level, and educationally smart in encouraging a wider diversity of college choices for the sons and daughters of Colorado. What’s your opinion?

Whether you agree or disagree with me, now is the time to make your views known to state representatives and state senators via email, phone, or seeing them in person one day soon.

A directory of contact information for all 100 Colorado legislators is here. House & Senate Emails & Phone

A fact sheet with more details on House Bill 1168 is here.

An economist’s memo on fiscal benefits to the state from equalizing COF stipends is here.


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