For Faculty & Staff: Fall 2020 Fiscal Update

Aug. 5, 2020 @  1:02 p.m.

Dear CU Denver Faculty and Staff,

As we are rapidly approaching the start of the fall semester, we want to provide the CU Denver community with an update on the budget and fiscal realities to which we are returning, how we have responded, and next steps in our budget process. 

Our Fiscal Situation
Beyond COVID-19’s tremendous human and economic toll, it has significantly disrupted our campus operations and financial situation. As we emailed previously, CU Denver is facing a budget shortfall of $33 million in unrestricted funds for the 2020-21 fiscal year (a 15% reduction from last year’s unrestricted funds).

In May, we announced and held a series of town halls on our plans to address the shortfall by using the following measures: 

  • Campus reserves
  • Campuswide temporary pay cuts for exempt faculty and staff via furloughs (find FAQs on the Human Resources webpage)  
  • 5% unrestricted fund budget reductions for schools, colleges, and central support units

In addition to the $33 million general fund shortfall, our auxiliary units (including the Lola and Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, Lynx Crossing Residence Hall, parking operations, and food service) continue to face reduced operations, resulting in significantly reduced revenues. We will continue to address their funding challenges on a case-by-case basis. 

In our prior emails and town halls, we mentioned several unresolved external factors affecting our financials. By mid-June, we learned that the governor had not taken any across-the-board actions related to classified employees nor were there any changes in systemwide employee benefits. However, the state did cut support to higher education by 58%. Separately, the governor provided one-time CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund funding of $22 million. At the June 19 Board of Regents meeting, CU Denver received approval for its FY 20-21 budget that included the $33 million cut. 

This news provides some—but not all—of the information needed to know what challenges lie ahead in the next few years. There will be uncertainty about fall enrollment, particularly among out-of-state and international students, until we get to fall semester census.

It is important to acknowledge that a majority of our budget shortfall is being addressed via one-time reductions at the campus, school, college, and central support unit levels. In addition, we are fortunate to have the one-time CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund funding from the governor. Those funds will be exhausted this fiscal year. Those funds will be exhausted this fiscal year. And as we do not know whether the aforementioned budget cuts will be enduring, we must begin the process this fall to prepare for the potential of longer term budget reductions. We will host a budget town hall in late September to provide more information on how we will be developing a multi-year budget plan to address this challenge.  

Update on Fall 2020 Tuition and Fees
CU Denver strives to keep costs low for our students. For the 2020-21 academic year, there will be no increase in tuition rates, keeping them the same as they have been for the last two years. We have expanded the student services available to our fully online and off-campus students and are making fees for these services more equitable, no matter the mode of instruction. 

Student Services Fee: With the increase in online and remote services, all CU Denver students will now be assessed the Student Services Fee (formerly named the Student Life Fee) at a reduced rate of $185 per term.  

Online Course Fee and Information Technology Fee: We are eliminating the online and hybrid course fees and applying the campuswide Information Technology Fee ($12 per credit hour) to all students.  

These changes expand services and equity for students, and total costs (tuition plus mandatory fees) will increase by less than one percent for a full-time undergraduate resident student. A detailed explanation of tuition rates and fees approved by the CU Board of Regents for the 2020-21 academic year can be found here.

Given the limited amount of students who will be physically on campus in fall 2020, we are making a number of additional changes to fall 2020 student fees, including a temporary suspension of the RTD College pass and a 50% reduction in the Auraria Fees and the CU Denver Wellness Center fee. 

Next Steps 
Later in the fall and early next spring, we will have a better understanding of enrollment for the current academic year and projected enrollment for next year. Updated information based on fall enrollment will be shared with the campus and included in a revised budget presented at the September Board of Regents meeting. Given the uncertainty over enrollment due to COVID-19 and the decline in state support, we should be prepared for long-term reductions next year and beyond. 

We will continue to be transparent about our financial situation and how we will address the gaps. In making those decisions, we are committed to sustaining CU Denver’s long-term financial sustainability. 

While we need to prepare for what may be a difficult fiscal year, there is still a lot we can do to positively affect the situation. Focusing our energy on providing high-quality teaching and learning experiences and increasing recruitment and retention, while intrinsic to our mission, will also help our bottom line since enrollment has the greatest impact on our budget. 

Thank you for your continued dedication as we take on CU Denver’s financial challenges in the weeks and months to come. I have no doubt that as we work together, we will emerge from this crisis as a stronger university and a more tightly knit community.

Jennifer Sobanet
Senior Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer

Todd Haggerty
Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget 

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