Colorado's higher education experts are growing more concerned about funding once stimulus dollars run out, and meantime, students are flooding financial aid offices with applications, and loss of income claims.
But despite the bleak outlook, officials at Mesa State College say they're taking a pro–active approach, and working now to plan for the financial future.
Mesa State College Director of Financial Aid Curt Martin says the number of students looking to get financial aid has gone way up in the past year, “we've seen a fairly significant increase in financial aid applications".
Martin says applications are up 20%-30%, and loss of income appeals are up double.
At the same time, the pending drop off of stimulus money in 2011 is just around the corner for colleges, planning the 2010 to 2011 school budgets this year.
Mesa State College President Tim Foster says the college will lose out on about $8–million dollars, a third of what the college gets from the state, “you know you're talking about a significant portion of our budget, that's a lot of money".
Foster says now he’s looking to college growth to spur the budget, and says even with associated costs, it will be a big help in making up that deficit.
As for tuition hikes, Foster says they are inevitable, even without the stimulus issue, but says it’s possible the college might look to soften the financial fall, "if we had to increase tuition 3%, but we say, let's take a little bite out of that cliff, next year so let's do 4% or 5%, and then we know, by doing an extra 2% now and we have good enrollment growth, and by keeping that tuition hike low, then we have more enrollment growth, then that's what'll put us on that path".
Foster says at the same time, he knows education is a big investment for families, but says it doesn’t matter how cheap you make tuition if you're not getting a quality experience.
As for financial aid, Director Martin says the college will continue working toward finding more federal and state funding to help students afford their education.