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Nine days ago, the University of Colorado Board of Regents reluctantly raised tuition for the 2010-2011 academic year by 9 percent for most resident students, 5 percent for incoming non-resident undergraduates and 3 percent for graduate non-resident students.

At least 20 percent of the revenue generated from the additional tuition will go to financial aid.

No one likes the idea of a tuition increase. At CU-Boulder, it is our continuing goal to keep college affordable and accessible for all and maintain an environment where students from all walks of life can engage each other in earning an education from a top university.

Raising tuition is never an easy decision and we know how difficult it can be for families to pay for college. So we are doing all we can to keep tuition down through operating efficiencies, revenue enhancements and expense reductions, including $22.3 million in budget cuts and 135 faculty and staff reductions since July as a result of state cuts to CU.

At the same time, we are making every effort to preserve the high quality of a CU education.

Many students are aware of the historic reduction in state support we have witnessed over the last two decades. State funding support for CU has declined from 20 percent of our budget in 1990 to 9 percent in 2005 to 3.3 percent today.

State support and tuition are our two primary sources of income. Unfortunately, when state support recedes, tuition increases.

Between them, tuition and state support help us run the university, deliver high-quality classroom instruction and student services, keep the lights and heat on, replace old equipment and fund the general operations of the university.

Tuition, however, does not support capital construction on campus, which is supported by one-time appropriations from the state and federal government, and from gifts.

In recent years, students have generously voted for fees to help finance specific academic buildings such as ATLAS, Wolf Law, Koelbel Business and the Visual Arts Complex for you and future students when the state could not offer full support, but there are no plans to use this strategy in the future to fund campus construction.

It is important to note, however, that government funding and gifts earmarked for capital construction cannot be used to “buy down” tuition, as some have suggested, because it is illegal to use earmarked money for other purposes.

Despite the tuition increase in 2010-11, CU-Boulder still remains very competitively priced for resident students when compared with our peers in California, Michigan, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin, among many others.

And, a CU degree is holding its value. Payscale.com and Forbes.com have rated a CU bachelor’s degree among the top 20 degrees nationally for their earning power, and USA Today and the Princeton Review rate CU-Boulder as one of the top five best values in all of American higher education.

The regents made tough tuition decisions this year. I want you to know we are grateful for the financial sacrifices of you and your family, and you have my pledge that we will continue to make your degree here worth the money, and the best investment you can make in your future.

Philip P. DiStefano is chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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