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College Opportunity Fund

Local college students still have time to sign up for the College Opportunity Fund

In about two weeks the State of Colorado will begin funding higher education through a new process called a student stipend. The stipends will be administered through the College Opportunity Fund (COF) and establishes a new way to provide tax support for undergraduate higher education. Area students who are currently in college, or who plan to enter college in the next few weeks, still have time to sign up for the Colorado Opportunity Fund (COF) before they begin classes. Failure to sign up for COF will result in higher tuition for in-state students. The stipend is not financial aid — students should apply separately for those funds.

While Colorado has long subsidized the cost of college for its residents, the funding has historically been directed to colleges in the form of enrollment funding. According to Jim Rizzuto, president of Otero Junior College, the new funding formula, passed into law last spring, serves a dual purpose. “The new funding formula shows all Colorado residents that college is possible with the help of the state subsidies and it also releases some state colleges and universities from the revenue limitations of TABOR - the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights,” said Rizzuto. “If a college meets Tabor’s criteria of receiving 10 percent or less of their revenues from the state’s general fund they could potentially be relieved of the Tabor limitation that restrict the percentage of tuition increases.

The stipends will be considered cash funds rather than state funds for Tabor purposes. To accomplish this, state funding will first go to the student, and then be transferred to their in-state college of choice. There are some limiting factors for students attending private in-state colleges,” Rizzuto explained.

Once the College Opportunity Fund is activated in fall 2005, students will be able to go online and see the total dollars the state contributes to their college education and then direct those dollars to the college they are attending.

Students will be able to monitor the number of credit hours for which their stipend has paid.

To be eligible to receive the stipend, students must first sign up online with the College Opportunity Fund. Those who do not sign up will be liable for higher tuition rates, similar to the rates paid by out-of-state students. A student only has to sign up once; however, the student will have to authorize payment of the funds each semester to the college they are attending. Those funds will not pass directly into the hands of the student; instead, payment will be sent to the student’s college in their name. The value of the stipend is a per-credit-hour amount that will be determined annually by the legislature.

Rizzuto emphasized that the establishment of the College Opportunity Fund does not provide any additional funding for higher education. “The funding is the same state support students have always received. Historically the support has been part of a student's tuition amount, but it has never been reflected on students' tuition bills. Instead, institutions have shown only the student’s portion of tuition on the bill. Now colleges are required to show total tuition cost on a student's tuition bill and then reduce the total tuition by the stipend amount,” he said.

Students will not automatically get their stipend when they enroll in a Colorado college unless they sign up for the College Opportunity Fund. To sign up, students may access the site through the OJC website at: www.ojc.edu or by accessing www.CollegeInColorado.org and click on the College Opportunity Fund logo located on the homepage. The process is simple: Type in the student’s name, Social Security number and date of birth in the appropriate boxes and click on the “submit” button. Students only have to sign up once, even if they transfer to a different in-state college.

For more information about signing up for the College Opportunity Fund, contact Otero Junior College at 719-384-6831. The Student Services Center at OJC has dedicated a bank of computers in the Student Services lobby for use by students signing up for COF. Specific questions concerning the College Opportunity Fund can be emailed to: askCOF@college-access.net.







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