Money made, money lost?

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Money made, money lost?

Leases on former FLC campus raise ire
Members of the Southwest Conservation Corps, a nonprofit that works on local land-conservation projects, unload gear into one of the historic buildings on the old Fort Lewis College campus near Hesperus. The conservation corps is one of many groups that have used the historic campus through the years. Some critics argue the land could have been better used to generate more revenue for an endowment fund created to support the tuition waiver at FLC.
Cattle are surrounded by historic buildings on the Old Fort campus five miles south of Hesperus. Only a few of the buildings that once stood on the campus still stand, but many are in desperate need of renovation and repair.
Caught in 'cannibalizing' situation

Colorado's method of paying for the tuition waiver for Native American students at Fort Lewis College is hardly ideal.
Next year, the state will pay the college $13 million to cover the tuition waiver.
The money comes from a $105 million pot that also supports work-study programs and need-based financial aid at all of the state's public colleges.
The pot has shrunk by 25 percent the last four years because of the recession, so the state has been forced to cut other financial-aid programs to continue funding the waiver, said Chad Marturano, director of legislative affairs at the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
At its worst, it's a situation of “cannibalizing other financial line items to pay for tuition waiver,” Marturano said.
As budgets continue to be squeezed, there's potential for animosity toward FLC if other state colleges see their budgets go down and FLC's increase, said Steve Schwartz, the college's vice president of finance and administration.
But after fierce backlash against a 2010 bill to reduce funding for the waiver, the state doesn't have any plans to touch that line item, Marturano said.
A group of students say a trust account set up to collect revenue from FLC's former campus near Hesperus could be at least part of a future funding solution.
In 1911, the federal government gave the 6,279-acre piece of property to the state of Colorado in exchange for Colorado's promise that the land and buildings would be maintained as an institution of learning that would admit Native American students tuition free.
Almost 15 years later in 1925, state legislators created the Fort Lewis School Endowment Fund to collect money made from rent, royalties and mineral leases on the land. The money was to benefit the school.
It is unclear what happened to the account when legislators created a new fund, the Hesperus Account, in 1963 to support the tuition waiver at FLC.
But subsequent legislative changes passed full responsibility for funding the waiver to the state, nullifying the account's primary purpose. The Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners, which holds the Old Fort property in trust for FLC, has discretion over use of the Hesperus Account money, according to state statute. The board's deputy director has said any money taken out of the account would be used to benefit the college. Withdrawals from the account also require legislative approval.
But historical records about the former endowment fund and the Hesperus Account are vague and incomplete, leaving questions about what kind of money was made off the land and how. FLC's spreadsheets date back only to 1992 when the college started using a database management system. According to those records, the account balance grew from $297,000 in 1992 to $708,000 now.
Colorado State University's records date back to 1976, but those numbers have never been incorporated into FLC's records and specific sources of the revenue were never noted.
The fact that multiple agencies are involved in the land has complicated record keeping, Schwartz said.
The Buffalo Council, a student group looking into past uses of the property, and its supporters have pushed the college to perform a more complete investigation of activities on the land that would identify and recover any revenue that may not have been deposited into the property's trust account. Although the state covers all tuition waiver costs, Colorado taxpayers may be shouldering an unnecessary portion of that expense if it could be even partly funded by money recovered from past uses on the land, the group said.
ecowan@durangoherald.com

IN THIS SERIES

SUNDAY: The tuition waiver's history, regional economic impact and symbolic importance.
TODAY: Past use of Fort Lewis College's former campus and its effect on the tuition waiver.
TUESDAY: Legislators and college officials hope to shift some of the tuition waiver's financial burden to the federal government.
WEDNESDAY: The Old Fort Lewis College campus today and the struggle to use that land according to its historic educational purpose.

Money made, money lost?

purchase
Members of the Southwest Conservation Corps, a nonprofit that works on local land-conservation projects, unload gear into one of the historic buildings on the old Fort Lewis College campus near Hesperus. The conservation corps is one of many groups that have used the historic campus through the years. Some critics argue the land could have been better used to generate more revenue for an endowment fund created to support the tuition waiver at FLC.
Cattle are surrounded by historic buildings on the Old Fort campus five miles south of Hesperus. Only a few of the buildings that once stood on the campus still stand, but many are in desperate need of renovation and repair.
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