Q: What guided the University and Board of Governor’s financial decisions?

We are grateful to the Board of Governors, the Colorado General Assembly, Governor Polis, and our federal Congressional delegation for their leadership in support of higher education, which has been instrumental in preparing our budget for next year.

Because of their leadership, we are facing a more optimistic budget outcome than we had anticipated, even with the real impacts we will have to address given budget realities facing our state and University System.

The Board of Governors directed – and we wholeheartedly embraced – our focus and goals as we made fiscal recommendations and decisions for the next year and responded to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Students are at the heart of all of our financial decisions, and maintaining their access to education. This is followed by a focus of maintaining continuity of operations for the next fiscal and academic year.

While making budget decisions, our goals were to:

  • Maintain excellence in teaching
  • Facilitate transformational research
  • Help meet the needs of Colorado communities through engagement
  • Focused recruitment, equity and success of diverse faculty and staff and protect our ability meet payroll
  • Maintain a sustainable financial future

While formulating our recommendations to the Board, President McConnell charged a team of individuals from across the university to model revenue options and assess ways to control expenses.

Chancellor Frank has recognized that he has not been able to communicate as effectively and consistently in advance of this year’s budget as in the past, because the state has been mired in fiscal uncertainty. Even now, the Board’s passage of the proposed budgets today is pending approval of the Long Budget Bill by the General Assembly and its signing by Governor Polis.

Q: What is the budget outlook?

Heading into the budget process, the CSU System – which includes our Fort Collins campuses as well as Pueblo and CSU Global — was facing a $164 million budget shortfall for next year. Our share of that shortfall is $143 million for our Fort Collins campus.

Because of the use of the strategy outlined by the System and President McConnell and the recovery planning process, funding sources – federal CARES Act stimulus funds, Board reserves, and debt refinancing the Fort Collins campus budget now includes $17 million in funding cuts.

These funding cuts will be managed primarily by leaving open positions unfilled, eliminating vacant non-critical positions, and promoting voluntary early separation incentives.

We continue to plan for the possibility of further economic downturn in the coming years and the potential of additional shortfalls due to the pandemic. To this end, the Board established an $80 million COVID-19 Emergency Reserve Fund to ensure the campuses remain sound and able to deliver on their critical missions during a time of great uncertainty.

Q: What are key measures in the university’s fiscal plan?

In support of the Board’s charge, President McConnell proposed to the Board, and the Board approved, a financial recovery structure that considered equity in how decisions would be implemented.

The university is committed to maintaining our investment in our people – our students, faculty and staff. As a result, our plan invests in human-centered priorities. The Board directed us to focus on reducing discretionary spending and to not fill some vacant positions.

As a result of Governor Polis’s dedication of CARES Act funds and the actions of the Joint Budget Committee, the Board approved a budget package that deploys federal stimulus funds, Board reserves, and proceeds from Board-initiated debt refinancing to spare deep cuts to the CSU campuses, preserve jobs, hold tuition steady, and avoid salary cuts for employees.

CSU is the largest employer in Northern Colorado, and the other CSU System campuses are among the largest employers in their regions. Our campuses play an important stabilizing role in the economy of our communities and state, so the Board asked campus presidents to devise budgets that preserved jobs and avoided salary cuts.

Key elements of the financial recovery plan are:

  • Investing $1.3 million in student-centered programs including mental health, student success, Title IX, and public safety
  • Attrition and replacement only for critical positions. This allows us to maintain our current positions and necessary staffing levels and avoid layoffs
  • Find cost savings in discretionary spending. Discretionary spending includes professional development and continued education and training for our employees, food at meetings or events, and travel, as well as postponing as much as possible the purchase of new computers, printers, etc
  • Travel will not be funded except where supported by private or non-university funds or necessary for engagement, extension, research or other critical functions
  • Implementing a voluntary retirement incentive as an option for more than 1,000 faculty and staff. Not all who are eligible will choose to retire, but those who do will help facilitate reduced payroll costs

In addition, units will be tasked with reducing their expenses, to be determined by unit leadership.

With these strategies, coupled with the strategic use of reserves and financing, the University will be able to maintain its goals of student access and continuity of operations, contingent upon the passage of the Long Bill and baring any decisions by the legislature that impact the components of our plan (such as a decision to place classified staff on furloughs).

Q: How was the CSU System able to mitigate the financial impacts of COVID-19?

The Board prioritized creation of emergency reserves following the Great Recession, and has chosen to use those reserves now in combination with the state and federal support to ensure the ongoing stability of its physical campuses.

CARES Act funding will not be used to backfill any budget cuts. There are strict rules in terms of how CARES Act funds can be deployed, and the Board and CSU System executive leadership, including the presidents, are developing commensurate policies and procedures.

Q: What are the impacts to non-tenure track faculty?

At its May meeting, members of the Board of Governors directed campus presidents to preserve maximum flexibility and hold off on all contract renewals where possible, including for non-tenure track faculty, until the university’s budget picture became clear. With the approval of these budgets, we anticipate all non-tenure track faculty will be renewed for the next year, and we anticipate economic projections make future layoffs extremely unlikely.

Q: What is the tuition rate for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021?

The university has recommended and the board has approved a 0% tuition increase. This means that tuition will be frozen at its 2019-2020 academic year rate.