Adams State University president David Svaldi on Wednesday said his school "takes no pleasure" in its proposed 16 percent annual tuition rate hike.
The increase would add $611 to bills for full-time, in-state students, bringing the tuition cost to $4,416. Out-of-state students face a 2 percent increase to $8,882.
But to mitigate the impact on students from one of the poorest areas in the state, the institution said it will cover the increased costs for many San Luis Valley students beginning next fall.
The San Luis Valley Promise Award guarantees that qualifying students from the region will receive school grants that, when packaged with federal aid, will cover their tuition and fees, plus provide money for incidental educational expenses.
To be eligible for the award, students from 22 high schools in the region must meet certain criteria. Among them: Students must be eligible for a full federal Pell Grant, which will equal about $5,600 in the 2013-14 school year. The school will then chip in roughly $3,000 to cover fees and incidentals.
About 300 students, or 15 percent of the entire student body, would qualify under the plan this year, according to school officials. Overall, about 30 percent of the student body comes from the San Luis Valley.
The award would be renewable if students maintain satisfactory academic progress of a 2.0 grade-point average with 75 percent completion of attempted credits.
Adams State has students from every county in the state, with about half of the students coming from outside the San Luis Valley. While those students will not be eligible for the Promise Award, officials say their financial aid should increase enough to cover the proposed hike.
The Adams State Board of Trustees will vote in May on the proposed tuition boost.
"It's not over until it's over," Svaldi said, noting the board may not accept the administration's recommendation. "Even if it does reach (16 percent), we still have the lowest costs of any four-year institution in the state."
The proposed increase at Adams State comes not long after other state schools floated news of potential tuition increases. Both the University of Colorado and Colorado State University have 9 percent hikes on the table. Metro State University of Denver will begin budget discussions in April, with a vote coming in June. It is limited by law to no more than a 9 percent tuition hike.
In 2010, the state legislature passed a bill giving schools a five-year window (between 2011-12 and 2015-16) to raise tuitions to offset decreases in state funding. While the law limited increases to 9 percent, schools could go over that amount by submitting a financial accountability plan to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
Metro State's plan, for example, allowed it to raise rates by 12.5 percent in 2011-12, and 13 percent for the current year, but limits further increases to no more than 9 percent for the next three years.
Eric Carpio, Adams State's assistant vice president of enrollment management, said that while the school was within its rights under the law to raise its rates, there was still the desire to help its core student group. According to the school, the average family adjusted gross income is $24,000 for its students.
"With the costs of college increasing and state funding decreasing, students from the Valley really don't have the opportunity to go somewhere else for school," he said. "Kids on the Front Range can live at home or go to a community college or somewhere like Metro. For high school students here, their only opportunity to get a degree from a four-year institution is often Adams State."