School vouchers’ impact still in question by officials
Local school administrators say they are not sure how a proposed voucher system, which would pay students up to $4,300 annually to go to Colorado colleges of their choice, would impact small Western Slope institutions.
Peter Angstadt, president of the Colorado Northwestern Community College system, said it was still too early to predict.
“At this point the new system is just an idea,” he said. “No one really has the details.”
A group of state lawmakers and a governor’s panel are discussing a plan that would pay the state’s 123,000 full-time resident students $4,300 per year.
The state would distribute the vouchers in place of giving each campus general operating funds.
The voucher system would cost the state $31 million more in general funds, but students would pay $31 million per year less in tuition.
“It was brought up because of a need to provide greater access for all,” Angstadt said. “But the scholarships and financial aid pretty much already guarantees access.”
Opponents of the plan at the state level say the program will only benefit the stronger schools in the state with higher enrollment.
While schools with smaller enrollment, which rely on divided up state fund dollars, would be hurt, opponents say.
“It might impact us,” said Dean Hollenbeck, vice president of CNCC. “Our understanding is when they give these vouchers it will reduce the amount of state allocations. This would come off the top of our operating expenses.”
This system might require the small college to increase its enrollment, Hollenbeck said.
“We would have to get those operating expenses back,” he said. “It could be just like a budget cut for us. We would have to make sure we increase our numbers.”
Both Hollenbeck and Angstadt said many questions still must be answered before they take a stance on the issue.
“A lot of this stuff we are reading about at the same time the public is,” Hollenbeck said. “We have lots of questions that need to be answered.”
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