Colorado

CSU targets credit hours in tuition plan

Updated Oct. 4 – The Colorado State University system is proposing to raise tuition in 2011-12 by requiring some students to take more credit hours to qualify as full time. The university also is studying variable tuition rates for different kinds of programs.

Those are the key elements of the tuition flexibility planned filed by the system with the state Department of Higher Education last Friday. Education New Colorado reviewed the CSU plan on Monday.

All state colleges and universities except the Colorado School of Mines filed plans, which will be reviewed by department staff and then the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Colorado college campus montage
From left, the campuses of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the Auraria Higher Education Center.

A new state law allows colleges to raise tuition up to 9 percent a year for each of the next five years without state approval. Institutions that feel they need larger increases may apply to CCHE for permission – those were the documents submitted Friday. Proposals also must include plans for protecting affordability and access for lower- and middle-income students. (See this story for additional background on the process.)

At the Fort Collins campus, CSU proposes to change the definition of full-time for undergraduates from 10 to 12 credit hours, which the plan says “which would translate to an additional $525 in tuition per semester. Students taking 10 or fewer credit hours will not experience an increase in their tuition.” (Read the CSU proposal here.)

In Pueblo, the university proposes to raise tuition rates for students taking 13 to 18 credit hours, rates that currently are discounted. “A typical student taking 15 credit hours would experience an increase of $380 per semester and if taking 18 credit hours an increase of $586,” the document says.

The 16-page CSU application assumes specific levels of state support in 2011-12 and warns that tuition may have to go higher if state funding doesn’t meet those levels. The document also notes, “If granted additional flexibility, resident tuition rates at CSU and CSU-Pueblo still will be nearly 20 percent lower than tuition rates at Colorado’s other research institutions.”

On the issue of financial aid, the CSU proposal references the Commitment to Colorado plan announced last summer, under which resident students working towards their first bachelor’s degree and whose families make $57,000 or less pay only half the standard tuition rate. Students from lower-income families who are eligible for Pell grants will not pay any tuition or fees to attend CSU (more details in this story).

The 12-page plan filed by the University of Colorado System includes a modest 9.5 percent proposed increase for resident undergraduate students in 2011-12, only half a percent above what the system could set without state approval. The plan includes raises “up to 9 percent” for school years 2012-13 through 2015-16. (That’s the year when the flexibility program ends.)

Although the CU proposal doesn’t appear to suggest new and different financial aid plans for lower- and middle-income students, the document discusses in detail its existing financial aid programs, saying, “The historic commitment that CU has made to institutional financial aid will continue.” The plan says part of increased revenue from tuition would be devoted to financial aid. (Read the CU proposal.)

The two plans and all the others are considered “working” documents subject to discussion and refinement. So, tuition increases made in the proposals won’t necessarily be what college boards actually approve next spring.

The CSU document takes care to stress that, saying, “This Financial Accountability Plan is a placeholder request as the actual determination of tuition rates and increases by the Board of Governors will not occur until next spring. Actual tuition rates will be dependent on the actual level of state funding for higher education in fiscal year 2012. The funding level will not be known until at least next April and, therefore, we are presenting concepts and nothing more at this time.”

A group of department staff members will review each request and pass it along to a subcommittee of the CCHE, which in turn will make recommendations to the full commission. The group expects to make decisions no later than September. The new flexibility law allows institutions to appeal CCHE decisions.

While the commission set Friday as the deadline for plans if colleges want flexibility for 2011-12, no specific deadline is in the new flexibility law. Several institutions have been concerned about making requests at this point, given that much can change before a state budget finally is adopted late next April.

The commission has said institutions can amend proposals after state revenue forecasts are made in April. And, the commission would have the power to reopen applications if it chooses, given there’s no cutoff in state law.

The plans cover tuition only for residents undergraduate students. College trustees already are free to set whatever tuition they choose for out-of-state undergrads and for all graduate students.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede