Army General Laura J. Richardson addresses graduating students of Metropolitan State University of Denver as the keynote commencement speaker at the Colorado Convention Center. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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On the surface, the bill had a simple premise — to recognize Colorado universities and colleges that enroll a high number of students who are the first in their family to go to college and communicate to those students that they are welcome on campus. 

The mostly symbolic bill, however, prompted a more complicated conversation about whether creating a first generation-serving designation would lead to those schools getting more state funding. In a state that funds its public colleges near the bottom of the nation, any hint at changing the distribution of money raises concerns for university leaders.

Faced with opposition from larger schools that serve fewer first-generation students, the sponsors pulled House Bill 1114 before it went to vote on the House floor. 

Bill co-sponsor state Rep. Rick Taggart, a Grand Junction Republican, said he wants to talk more with university leaders and bring the bill back next year. He said it troubled him that the opposition centered on funding concerns when the bill didn’t call for any changes to the higher education funding formula. At the same time, he said he understands why money is a sensitive subject.

“I totally respect the reason that folks are really concerned about the funding formula is that higher education is way underfunded in this state, just severely underfunded,” Taggart said. “If you start messing with the formula, you’re going to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

For university leaders, the bill did place funding under the microscope.


Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado

Twitter: @ByJasonGonzales