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CU fee increase approved

Law school construction could begin in fall

By Amy Hebert
Daily Camera Staff Writer

April 30, 2004

Construction on a new law school could begin at the University of Colorado next fall, thanks to the approval Thursday night of the largest-ever increase of CU student fees.

Dozens of law school students and faculty members burst into applause, some hugging and high-fiving after the student legislators approved the $400 building fee by a 15-2 vote.

"It's a tremendous relief," said David Getches, dean of the law school. "It will make an enormous difference in our future."

Plans for the new law school will be presented in June to the American Bar Association, which had threatened pulling CU law's accreditation because of its aging facilities.

"I think the threat of accreditation will be officially lifted after we report this," Getches said.

The bill won wider support from student legislators after they amended it Thursday to add a new fine-arts complex to the list of construction projects the fee will finance.

That list also includes an expansion of the Leeds School of Business; a state-of-the art building for the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society program; and information technology improvements throughout the campus.

The fee won't go into effect until the first project, the law school, is built and occupied, which could be as early as fall 2005. It would last for 20 to 25 years, starting at $100 a year and increasing in $100 yearly increments until it reaches $400 dollars.

Students now pay about $870 a year in fees.

Senior Michelle Yom, who represents the music school and joined Legislative Council President Laura Reinsch in voting against the bill, said the rising price will cost CU in terms of diversity.

"Minority enrollment goes down 2 percent for every $100 increase" in tuition or fees, Yom said.

She said the bill was pushed through the student government "entirely due to the heavy pressures of the administration."

But supporters of the bill said campus building needs are too pressing to wait for unreliable state support. The state Legislature has traditionally paid for construction projects at state universities, but years of state cuts have stalled building at CU.

Sergio Gonzales, a tri-executive in the student government, said that depending on state legislators would only have taken power out of the students' hands. The bill's passage, he said, gives students leverage to negotiate with CU administrators on other issues as well.

Gonzales read a "memorandum of understanding" signed Thursday by Chancellor Richard Byyny, promising to engage in talks about giving students a voice in decisions such as faculty hiring, tenure and judicial affairs hearings.

Supporters also say the fee won't be a burden on low-income students because a percentage of the revenues will be set aside for financial aid to cover the increase for qualifying students. That percentage was upped from 17 percent to 27 percent last week, but student legislators reduced it to 20 percent on Thursday.

Junior Steven McAllister said the issue should have been put to a campuswide vote.

"Most of the opposition to this bill is not opposition to capital construction projects per se, it's opposition to the way this situation is being handled," McAllister said. "You want $400 from each student? Fine. Then by all means ask us."