Higher Education Funding Update: Budgetary work in light of state funding crisis underway
Aug 18, 2010
Deadlines are nearing for the CEOs of Colorado’s higher education institutions to submit budgetary information to the Colorado Department of Higher Education as the CDHE prepares for meetings in November with the Joint Budget Committee (JBC).
As called for in the Handbook for Professional Personnel, the College’s Financial Exigency Committee has been working throughout the summer in conjunction with other senior leaders to plan for Metro State’s future in light of Colorado’s higher education funding crisis.
“The committee’s role is to assist the president in developing a list of program priorities for response to both moderate and severe financial exigencies,” says Vice President of Administration, Finance and Facilities Natalie Lutes, who co-chairs the committee with Provost Vicki Golich.
Information about financial exigency and the committee can be found on page 128 of the handbook.
In conjunction with the committee’s work, the offices of the president and the VPAFF are preparing budget-reduction scenarios and projections, with a goal of determining the best plan for offsetting budget reductions. According to Lutes, the scenarios are based on three factors:
• the College’s revenue considering various levels of tuition increase
• expenditures needed to maintain current levels of service
• financial aid data
CDHE 50 percent reduction model
The budget work must follow the requirements of SB 3, the tuition flexibility bill passed last year by the Colorado General Assembly, which mandates that access for lower- and middle-income students be preserved.
The bill also requires that the CDHE produce a report for the JBC on what an across-the-board 50 percent budget reduction to all higher education would entail. One of the parameters is that this reduction cannot be offset by tuition.
To compile the report for the JBC, the CDHE has asked each institution to submit a proposal for a 50 percent reduction by the end of next month. President Stephen Jordan says that, rather than a 50 percent cut being a realistic possibility, the CDHE is coordinating the effort to demonstrate to the JBC the draconian impact of such reductions.
“The CDHE will use the report as a tool as they fight for state higher education funding,” Jordan says.
However, believing that a 15 percent to 25 percent reduction is possible, Jordan has asked the vice presidents to assess their divisions based on reductions of 15 percent, 25 percent and the worst-case scenario of 50 percent.
“I’m looking for the big picture, rather than particular positions in a piecemeal fashion,” Jordan explains. “For instance, what would the impact be of reducing the student body or a division by a certain percentage?”
These VP reports are to be ready for review by the Board of Trustees at its October 8-9, 2010 retreat.
CCHE tuition request
The tuition flexibility bill also requires that if an institution wants to raise resident tuition more than 9 percent, they must submit a Financial and Accountability Plan to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) no later than Oct. 1, 2010. They must justify the increase and demonstrate how any impact on low- and middle-income students will be minimized. “The amount of increased tuition to mitigate the funding gap needs to be determined in conjunction with reduction to expenditure,” Lutes adds.
Submission of the report only reserves the opportunity to increase tuition by more than 9 percent, allowing for future changes. “So we will submit a request as a placeholder and then decide in the spring if we want to increase tuition more than 9 percent,” Lutes says.
SGA student survey
Meanwhile, the Student Government Assembly (SGA) is doing its part to provide the student perspective on the budget crisis. Starting this fall, a new program called The Runners will send student volunteers into classrooms once a week with updates on College-related information, including budgetary issues. In September, the Runners will twice distribute surveys of five questions related to the budget and student finances.
According to BOT Student Trustee Cat Cammack, who created the program, the survey questions could include what students value most in terms of support services and co-curricular activities, and what they would be willing to give up in order to protect academic programs and services.
“The survey will be vetted through the College Communications Office to insure that the questions are not biased or leading in any way,” Cammack says.
According to Jordan, the idea behind the questions is that a moderate tuition increase could potentially be offset by a reduction in services/activities that students are willing to forego based on the survey results. Consideration will be given to areas where students are paying fees for service that they would be prepared to eliminate in order to maintain high-quality academic programs.
The results will be tallied in early October so that Cammack can report on them at the BOT retreat.
For continuing updates on budget issues, watch This Week @Metro, including Special Edition @Metro when warranted.
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