By Angelia McGowan
In addition to receiving a budget update at its Feb. 2 meeting, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed its support for the latest version of the tuition equity bill, approved a change in student health insurance policy and approved a memorandum of understanding related to the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center (HLC).
Budget cuts expected
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget isn’t scheduled to be released until Feb. 15 and the next state revenue forecast is scheduled for March 20. Yet, higher education institutions are seeing glimpses of budget challenges that may be around the corner.
President Stephen Jordan reported on a meeting he had attended the week prior with the state’s college and university presidents and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. It was Garcia’s “first meeting also as executive director of the Department of Higher Education,” said Jordan. “He spoke to us about (the) real possibilities of (the) higher education budget being reduced from the current recommendations of $555 million down to $500 million or less, due to current state fiscal constraints.”
That would translate to roughly $3.75 million in additional budget reductions (for Metro State), according to Jordan. “That would be the equivalent of the entire net increase after the set aside we were planning for financial aid.”
He added, “If we use the financial accountability plan and the tuition increase that we put in there (to offset cuts in state funding), we would end up essentially at a ‘no harm, no foul.’”
He also cautioned if this were to be the case, there would be no money for salary increases, new staff or any new initiatives. “We would essentially use that net tuition increase to cover the reductions, at least one strategy that I would urge. In my view, the size of staff is so depleted relative to the size of institution I just don’t see that it would make sense to do reductions in the staff of the institution. But that’s an issue the board will have to grapple with as a part of budget process, should that be necessary.”
Support for tuition equity bill
The board approved Trustee Antonio Esquibel’s motion “that the board reaffirm its support for legislation that would provide tuition equity to all high school graduates regardless of their immigration status.”
“We, from the administration, thought it was important to bring this bill forward,” said Jordan of the legislation, which has yet to be formally introduced this legislative session. College support of legislation on this issue was one of only three recommendations unanimously approved by the Hispanic Serving Initiative Task Force in 2008. “We think it is absolutely consistent with who we are as an institution and the students that we serve,” said Jordan. “We happen to believe that this will make a real difference in the long-term economic stability of our state.”
Deputy Provost and Co-Chair of the HSI Task Force Luis Torres added, “It’s important for the community to see groups like the Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate and President Jordan supporting this initiative.”
Student health insurance to switch from “waive-out” to “opt-in” model
The board also approved a policy change that would allow students to “opt-in” to the College-offered health insurance coverage instead of the current process of “waiving out” if they have qualified outside coverage.
Under federal requirements, all students are required to submit proof of health insurance. Previously, students with outside coverage had to waive an insurance charge that was automatically posted to their account upon registration.
Health Center at Auraria Director Steve Monaco reported the policy change had been “vetted with all the state requirements and federal mandates out there for 2011.”
According to Monaco, the change would also designate a third party to handle billing and collections, removing the College from being responsible for this component. It would cover students for 12 months instead of the current nine months. With the approval, students who begin registering on April 1 for fall 2011 classes will see this change.
Student Trustee Kathryn “Kat” Cammack said, “I remember months and months ago you came to SGA with this proposal and we were just blown away, like ‘Wow they are actually talking to us about this and trying to get our input.’ This is amazing, what you’ve done.”
BOT Vice Chair Michelle Lucero said, “This is phenomenal, to get a lot of federal mandates done this early. Being in health care, I’ll tell you we are scrambling for every type of change. (This policy change is) not only commendable, but something we want to look as a model to showcase. I would venture to say we are one of the first institutions that are really doing this right now.”
The initiative will be submitted to the the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Red Balloon project as "an innovative practice for how we’re doing better business,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Vicki Golich, who serves on the AASCU steering committee for chief academic officers. Jordan is chair of the president’s group.
Memorandum of Understanding spells out roles in HLC
The board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Metropolitan State College of Denver Foundation, Inc., HLC @Metro, Inc., the Metropolitan State College of Denver Roadrunner Recovery and Reinvestment Act Finance Authority, and the College, spelling out each entity’s roles and responsibilities related to the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center.
General Counsel Loretta P. Martinez pointed out that the MOU still “needs approval from Roadrunner Finance Authority, as well as the corporation, before this would be finalized.”
Trustee Dawn Bookhardt said, “The complexity of the transaction and the interrelationship between the parties is something that you spelled out with simplicity and sophistication.”
The board also approved four study-abroad courses and the most recent Office of Human Resources Report of Personnel Actions.
In other news, Jordan announced that the College’s name change initiative “had begun, consistent with the guidance the board provided in the October retreat. A town hall meeting is scheduled Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 a.m.
Jordan reported he has been invited to serve on the AASCU Task Force, which is focused specifically on College readiness, and which includes issues around the federal government’s effort to have a more uniform national set of accountability measures, specifically for math and English.
Trustee Esquibel, who will be leaving the board pending the state senate’s approval of Terrance Carroll to the board, was recognized during the meeting by a host of people, including Jordan and BOT Chair Robert Cohen. @Metro will announce the formal appreciation event for Esquibel once that information is available. Look for a profile on Esquibel, who has been with the college as a faculty member, administrator or trustee for more than 30 years, in a future edition of @Metro.
To listen to the meeting in its entirety, go to the Board of Trustees website and click on the Feb. 2 meeting date.
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