The Faculty Senate of the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) has passed a resolution endorsing Amendment 58, which proposes to create the Colorado Promise Scholarship by eliminating a tax credit for oil and gas companies. The initiative would double the amount of need-based scholarships available to resident students attending public institutions of higher education if approved by Colorado voters in November.
The resolution, proposed by J. Thomas McKinnon, professor of chemical engineering and president of the CSM Faculty Senate, notes the scholarship program would help maintain the affordability of college by offering more aid to lower and middle income families in the state. Roughly two-thirds of Colorado families could qualify opening the doors of college opportunity to many new students. "During my 18 years on the faculty, I've seen a number of heroic students working nearly full-time jobs while trying to study engineering; some have succeeded but many have not," McKinnon said. "By providing better financial aid, we can help students concentrate on their studies and become more productive members of society. A well educated work force is clearly a prudent long-term strategy for ensuring the health of our economy."
By creating the Colorado Promise Scholarship Fund, Amendment 58 will more than double the state's financial aid funding. The scholarships would follow a "shared responsibility" model, taking into consideration how much a family is expected to pay for college, how much the student can contribute, and what is available from Pell and other federal grants.
The measure proposes to repeal a tax credit enacted in the late 1970s to help the energy industry become established in Colorado. The credit allows energy companies to subtract 87.5 percent of their property tax bills from the severance taxes they owe on oil and gas extracted in the state. The credit currently amounts to roughly $300 million a year. According to the Consumer Federation of America, Colorado produced $6.63 billion worth of oil and gas last year, or about 6.2 percent of total U.S. production.
It is estimated the Amendment 58 would raise $250-$325 million a year, with 60 percent going to the Colorado Promise Scholarship Fund. Of the remaining funds,10 percent would be funneled to renewable energy projects, 15 percent to wildlife habitat, and 15 percent to water quality and transportation projects in communities where oil and gas producers operate.
The Faculty Senate at CSM joins a long list of Amendment 58 supporters, including the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, the presidents of the University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University system, Western State College, Metro State College, and the Colorado Community College System, the Associated Students of Colorado, Adams State Board of Trustees, Mesa State College Board of Trustees, Metropolitan State College of Denver Board of Trustees, the University of Northern Colorado Trustees, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.
The CSM Faculty Senate represents the academic faculty at CSM and not the institution as a whole.