A young man, wearing a grey sweatshirt and blue jeans, walks down a path toward campus, the Denver skyline looming in the background.

Colorado needs to invest more than three times what its governor proposed for college and university budgets — or risk further shutting out more students, weakening its colleges, and failing to prepare young residents to work and thrive in the evolving economy.

The warning in a letter penned by 15 college presidents representing every state institution said Gov. Jared Polis’ proposed $52.5 million budget increase for colleges and financial aid wouldn’t cover their minimum operating costs. If adopted, the governor’s 2022-23 budget would precipitate a spike in tuition, presidents warned.

In the letter, the college and university presidents requested $179 million more this year from the state. Alternatively, they seek at least $105 million more plus the authority to increase tuition by 3%. That would fund contractual pay raises, and rising costs of health care,r goods, and services.

Metropolitan State University of Denver President Janine Davidson said in an email statement that college presidents wanted to make clear what it takes to operate a viable, competitive higher education system.