Phase 1 of Our Budget Reduction and Realignment Work is Nearly Complete

December 16, 2022

Dear faculty and staff,

Since we began our strategic realignment of resources work in November to balance CU Denver’s budget, nearly 1,000 members of our community have engaged in the process—through info sessions, office hours, and other means. Over 100 formal budget reduction proposals were submitted by deans and Cabinet members for Phase 1 of this process, with roughly 85 additional ideas submitted through the web form. The review for all of these ideas included weeks of unit-level consultation sessions led by deans and vice chancellors with members of our community as well as campus-level consultative sessions between deans, vice chancellors, and shared governance bodies as we worked together to refine these proposals and ensure we strategically meet our budget reduction target for this year.

I want to summarize the comprehensive work to show not only the scope of this effort, but also the incredible way in which our community has worked together over the last four months to meet our immediate budget reduction goals and help position us for the long-term financial health of CU Denver. It’s a remarkable achievement. And I am so grateful for your continued engagement and collaboration.

Now, as we near the finish line for Phase 1 of this work, I want to provide an update on the process moving forward as well as remind all of you when and how the final decisions will be made public.

A reminder of the process
To recap, we broke this budget work into two phases and, at the community’s suggestion, we slowed down Phase 1 to be more deliberate and inclusive. Here is a breakdown of the two phases:

  • Phase 1, which started in November and culminates in April, is an initial 3% budget cut for each school/college and 4% cut for administrative units to be implemented by June 2023. It’s important for me that administration lead in this process, which is why administration is taking a larger cut for Phase 1—more than 4% based on the current proposals.
  • Phase 2, which will begin in April after we complete Phase 1 and will continue through June 2024, is an additional 4% cut across our academic and administrative units. These additional cuts will enable us to reach our total $12 million target ($6 million in cuts to be implemented by July 1, 2023 and another $6 million in cuts to be implemented by July 1, 2024).

For both phases, we are following a set of guiding principles our community mutually agreed are the right ones for our university:

  • Prioritizing student success and necessary supports;
  • Prioritizing you and your hard work;
  • Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the continued equity-serving nature of our work;
  • Valuing systems thinking, nimbleness, and an institutional mindset;
  • Remembering our fiduciary responsibility as stewards of public funds and students’ tuition dollars.

Phase 1 recap and what remains
In December, deans and vice chancellors submitted their initial proposals for review and consideration. They were also asked to develop and implement unit-level processes for engagement, consultation, communication, and iteration with members of our community, which continued through January and February.

In addition, the budget planning team, along with Provost Constancio Nakuma, EVC Jennifer Sobanet, and me, reviewed every idea for strategic merit and alignment with our principles.

On Feb. 20, the deans, Cabinet, and shared governance leaders met for a day-long session to review all of the current proposals and share consultative feedback. With that feedback now incorporated, the budget team is conducting a financial validation, and then Provost Nakuma, EVC Jennifer Sobanet, and I will work with the deans and Cabinet on a final review of the proposals to ensure we meet our $6 million goal by June 30, 2023.  Final decisions will be made before the April CU Board of Regents meeting, at which point we will present our FY23-24 balanced budget.

Some of you have asked when these decisions will be communicated out to our community and what some of the general themes are. Many of the reduction ideas we are pursuing involve sunsetting unused or underutilized technology, retirements, not filling certain currently vacant positions, or localized reorganizations. It’s clear that our people have taken transformation seriously, and that our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion remain front-and-center.

While that’s some high-level context, I also want to assure you that we will communicate these decisions out in more detail before the Board of Regents meeting. Deans and vice chancellors will have the opportunity to share their specific proposals to each of their schools, colleges, and units first, at the end of March. Once they do that, a broader communication will go out to the university community in early April about the decisions overall.

In the meantime, if you have questions about the ongoing process for Phase 1, I encourage you to reach out to your deans or vice chancellors.

Looking ahead to Phase 2
We have already received a number of transformational ideas for Phase 2, which means that our community is actively thinking about this next step. Looking at these ideas, we will continue to align our budget work with our strategic priorities and principles. This includes avoiding reductions that cut student services or negatively impact our educational mission. Our focus—as it has been throughout Phase 1—will also be to actively and proactively engage all of you through a range of channels as we work together to meet our goals.

Initial thinking for how to activate the second phase of our work together is already happening, and we plan to communicate about that more concretely in April.

In closing
I want to reiterate how grateful I am for your dedication and hard work these past few months. It’s true that we are a complicated institution and the circumstances we currently face have required us to work very fast, even as we’ve slowed down our budget work to create more opportunities for consultation. I know how hard that has been on all of you, and  you have stepped up at every point. That passion and commitment on behalf of each of you is why I am confident that we will overcome this challenge as an institution and realize the bold future that we have already

Michelle Mark signature

Michelle Marks

Chancellor’s Office

CU Denver

Lawrence Street Center

1380 Lawrence Street

Suite 1400

Denver, CO 80204


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