Published: May 21, 2024

The 2024 state legislative session adjourned on May 8, with the passing of multiple bills aimed at making college more affordable, including one that provides tax credits to offset tuition and fees for two years for Colorado students whose families have an adjusted gross income below $90,000.

Why it matters

The new legislation complements significant efforts CU Boulder has made in recent years to reduce the cost of a college degree and increase access for in-state students, including expansion of the CU Promise program and the university’s four-year tuition guarantee. 

These bills, which now head to the governor’s desk for signature, also illustrate how the university and state lawmakers are working together to create a more affordable and accessible college experience. These collective efforts showcase the critical role the CU community plays in shaping legislation, as multiple students and university constituents testified during the legislative session. 

Legislative and institutional synergy

Bills passed by the Colorado State Legislature this spring with an aim of reducing the cost of college include: 

Tuition/fee tax credit for families

Under HB24-1340, eligible students will benefit from a refundable state income tax credit (beginning with tax year 2025) that offsets tuition and fees not already covered by grants or scholarships for the first 65 credit hours at public institutions in Colorado, including CU Boulder. This includes transfer credits, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses taken before attendance at CU Boulder. 

  • Students must enroll within two years of completing high school.
  • In-state tuition qualification is required for the term when the incentive is claimed.
  • Students must have completed the FAFSA or the Colorado application for state financial aid, showing a household adjusted gross income of $90,000 or less.
  • Students must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Read more about HB24-1340 at CU Connections.

Student Educator Stipend Program

The Student Educator Stipend Program (HB24-1290) provides stipends of up to $11,000 per semester to aspiring educators pursuing teaching careers. It aims to ease the financial challenges faced by aspiring teachers and enhance the pipeline of qualified educators across Colorado’s universities. The program was initially created through CU-initiated HB22-1220 in 2022 and has been expanded with passage HB24-1290, providing $4.2 million in state funding for the stipends.

Youth homelessness support

HB24-1403 provides support for students who have experienced homelessness during high school by ensuring they receive comprehensive financial aid and support services at Colorado’s higher education institutions. The bill covers the remaining balance of tuition and fees, after other scholarships and grants, for up to the first 132 semester credit hours for students identified under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

An increase in funding for higher education

Complementing the benefits introduced by these bills, the Colorado State Legislature has approved a significant increase in funding for higher education. The state has allocated a 9.4% increase ($132 million) in funding for higher education in the state, including $107 million in operating funds (of which $29.3 million is the University of Colorado system’s share) and $25 million for financial aid.

This increase will enable CU Boulder to provide more financial aid and enhance academic opportunities.

CU Boulder efforts

The newly passed bills follow a number of efforts made by CU Boulder in recent years to address affordability for students, increase access to a college degree and increase predictability for families, including: 

  • The CU Promise program at CU Boulder covers tuition and fees for Colorado undergraduates with significant financial need, and was expanded for the 2023–24 academic year, making about 3,500 students eligible. 
  • The Undergraduate Tuition Guarantee adds another layer of financial predictability by securing a fixed tuition rate for undergraduates over four years. This means students don’t have to worry about unexpected tuition hikes, giving them a more manageable college experience.

What’s being said

“CU Boulder is grateful to our lawmakers who see the value in making a college degree more attainable, and we are excited to continue working alongside them to ensure all Coloradans have access to an education at our state’s flagship university,” Chancellor Philip DiStefano said.

From quantum tax breaks to firearms on campus: Bills that impact CU Boulder

Read about successful bills that will have impacts on the CU Boulder community:

Quantum tax incentives 

HB24-1325, Tax Credits For Quantum Industry Support, creates two state tax incentives to support the development of the quantum technology ecosystem in the state, providing a significant state investment of  $74 million to match a potential federal grant of a similar amount from the Economic Development Association’s Tech Hub program.

One of the tax incentives provides up to $29 million in refundable tax credits to offset the cost of building a quantum incubator, designed to rapidly transition quantum research innovations into the marketplace; the facility is envisioned to be built close to CU Boulder researchers, students and industry partners to leverage the university’s strengths in quantum science.

“Thanks to our collaboration with the state and other partners, CU Boulder and our fellow research institutions will have unprecedented opportunities to translate cutting-edge quantum research from the lab into a positive impact for Colorado’s people and economy,” said Massimo Ruzzene, CU Boulder vice chancellor for research and innovation and dean of the institutes. 

Read more about quantum tax credit legislation and CU Boulder impacts.

Water quality management 

SB24-037 cemented a partnership between CU Boulder’s Mortenson Center in Global Engineering and Resilience, the state Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Center to:

  • Conduct a feasibility study of the use of green infrastructure, watershed-scale water quality management solutions as an alternative to traditional infrastructure, and the use of green financing mechanisms for water quality management 
  • Establish one or more pilot projects to demonstrate the use of green infrastructure, green financing mechanisms, or both 
  • Submit a report to the Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee on the progress of the feasibility study and pilot projects, and on any legislative and administrative recommendations to promote the use of green infrastructure and green financing for water quality management. 

Read more about the Mortenson Center’s work around water management in Colorado.

Firearms on campus

SB24-131 prohibits a person from knowingly carrying a firearm, both openly and concealed, in government buildings, including public campuses, and adjacent parking areas. The measure allows for local governments to enact additional regulations. 

CU Boulder student government actively supported and testified in favor of the bill.

Learn more about current rules and regulations regarding concealed carry at CU Boulder.

Capital construction 

CU Boulder received $8.5 million for six controlled maintenance projects, including:

  • Rooftop safety for five buildings
  • Hale Science Building exterior repairs
  • New water heater exchangers in some buildings
  • Classroom security upgrades
  • Window replacement in the Engineering Center office tower
  • Sewage treatment system repairs at the Mountain Research Station