CO Gov Proposes Higher Ed Reductions in FY 2017 Budget; Groups Advocate Stronger Talent Pipelines

November 05, 2015

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper released his administration’s $27 billion budget request for fiscal year 2017, which includes significant refunds for taxpayers and reductions for higher education, hospitals and state buildings. Reductions for Colorado’s colleges are estimated to be $20 million, with the governor’s office proposing to lift the cap on tuition increases, according to The Denver Post. Though Colorado has long boasted a dynamic and talented workforce for high-tech jobs, tuition hikes could complicate the state’s efforts to build on that advantage. Two recent Colorado studies recommended expansions of programs and partnerships that forge stronger talent pipelines in high-tech industries.

In order to offset growing costs in K-12 education and Medicaid, as well as new taxpayer refunds, Gov. Hickenlooper requests a 3.1 percent reduction in general funds for public colleges and universities.  Tuitions at these institutions would be expected to increase 8.7 percent under the budget request with the lift of tuitions caps. Actual increases would vary by institution.  The Department of Higher Education also serves the state’s area vocational schools, occupational schools and over 100 private degree authorizing institutions. Overall, the department’s budget would be reduced by about 1 percent.

Funding for economic development would hold close to FY16 levels, around $27.8 million in general funds.

The request comes just two weeks after the release of The Colorado Talent Pipeline Report by the Colorado Workforce Development Council, developed in partnership with the Department of Higher Education, the Office of Economic Development and several other state agencies. This is the third annual edition of the report, which provides policy recommendations to improve Colorado’s talent development system.

A key topic of this year’s analysis was the growing attainment gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds. The council found that, despite the state’s above average educational attainment levels relative to the rest of the country, lower-income and minority students were much less likely to attend college or secure employment in high-tech fields. Researchers also noted that the vast majority of high-growth occupations in the state required some form of post-secondary education.

The council recommends expansion of work-based learning programs and new educational opportunities for adults in the workforce, though these opportunities could be hampered by tuition increases.

Download The Colorado Talent Pipeline Report at: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2015%20Talent%20Pipeline%20Report.pdf.

An August report, released by the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) also explored the need to boost the state’s pathways into employment in innovative industries. The 2015 Innovation Report: Talent in Colorado examines the importance of talent to the future growth of the Colorado economy. COIN notes that state support for higher education fell almost 70 percent between 1980 and 2011 and now ranks 49 in per-student support. Much of the state’s strength in educational attainment has derived from its ability to attract highly educated workers after graduation. Families in the state, particularly low-income families, often fall into a debt spiral from rising tuition costs and student loans.

To remedy this situation, COIN recommends the expansion of customized educational opportunities and pathways for high-skill jobs.

Download the 2015 Innovation Report: Talent in Colorado at: http://www.coloradoinnovationnetwork.com/wp-content/themes/coin/assets/pdf/coii_2015.pdf

Coloradostate budget