February 13, 2008

Colorado Department Of Higher Education Targets Free Tuition Bill For Decorated Veterans

**Update--Combat veteran tuition waiver opponents like David Skaggs called for in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants just last year
"We have an obligation to care for our veterans"--Rep. Rafael Gallegos, sponsor of the free tuition bill for decorated combat veterans

Sick. Just sick--the Colorado Department of Higher Education aggressively trying to kill the tuition bill through back-door channels:
The Colorado Department of Higher Education has quietly called on lobbyists for the University of Colorado system to persuade lawmakers to kill a bill that would grant free tuition to decorated combat veterans.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antonito, sailed through the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 9-2 vote last week. But opponents say the state's colleges and universities can't afford it.

In an e-mail Monday to two dozen Capitol lobbyists, Cathy Wanstrath, a lobbyist for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, laid out a plan to kill the measure when it is heard by the Appropriations Committee on Friday.

"I think you all agree we need to kill this bill, and (the Colorado Department of Higher Education) has been happy to take the lead," according to the memo obtained Tuesday by the Rocky Mountain News. "However, we need your help in the next couple of days to count the votes to kill it in committee."

Gallegos said that Wanstrath already had contacted him.

"I understand we're talking about money here," he said. "I have done my best to explain the benefits of this. We have an obligation to care for our veterans."
The provisions of the bill:
HB 1068

The bill would provide free state tuition to individuals who were legal Colorado residents at the time of the military action for which they received the Purple Heart or a higher combat service medal. Veterans also would have to meet the one-year state residency requirement prior to enrolling at school.
Making excuses for an inability to fund this program, David Skaggs scrapes the bottom of the barrel:
David Skaggs, director of the state Department of Higher Education, said that as a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, he has empathy for what veterans who have been decorated for combat action have gone through.

"Our position on this is taken with enormous regret because of this, but we simply have no idea what the price tag on that would be," Skaggs said.

The Legislative Council staff has said that accurate information does not exist on how many potential recipients might benefit from the bill.

But the staff noted that if 10 undergraduates took advantage of the tuition waiver at CU-Boulder for four years, it would cost the school $216,720.

A "hugely constrained" budget has no room for such a waiver, Skaggs said, adding that it also would force CU's medical school to waive its $25,000 tuition for each decorated veteran.
Well, with Ward Churchill on his way out, that should free up some money to fund the tuition waiver.

The free tuition for decorated combat veterans is a small price to pay in comparison to what these brave Americans paid for our freedom.

Here is the link to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, as well as the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Have a message for David Skaggs? (keep it polite)--executivedirector@cche.state.co.us

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