Mesa State College students will decide whether to take professor salary raises into their own hands this week by voting on a $5 per credit hour tuition premium increase.
The premium could provide the college $699,500 to increase teacher salaries. Professors at Mesa State on average made 96.4 percent the salary of professors at similar institutions in the United States in 2006-2007.
The premium question will appear on the Mesa State associated student government ballot this Monday through Wednesday. More than half the student body must approve the premium in order for it to receive state approval.
Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, wrote the footnote in the state's long bill calling for a student vote before the premium became final. Buescher said writing the footnote got a majority of the Joint Budget Committee, which he chairs, to give the premium a chance to go forward.
Student-driven premiums are becoming a trend in Colorado, Buescher said.
"Colorado doesn't fund higher education very well, and that results in a huge amount of pressure on tuition for our college students," Buescher said. "What we're seeing around the entire state and Mesa State is students voting for tuition premiums in order to fund what they want."
Associated Student Government President Adam Davenport said at an April 5 higher education roundtable with Gov. Bill Ritter at Mesa State that the money raised by the tuition premium may be the best effort students can put forth to recruit or retain some of their favorite and best-qualified teachers.
"We realize we can never give $50,000 or $40,000 signing bonuses (to professors)," Davenport said, but he believes the tuition premium will help. Davenport added most members of ASG support the tuition premium, and that more than one academic department is facing faculty shortages.
Mesa State stands to take in $1.45 million more without the premium in 2008-2009 than in 2007-2008 for tuition due to tuition increases approved March 7 by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
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