President Stephen Jordan today presented to more than 200 faculty and staff an overview of the most current information regarding the higher eduation funding crisis and its impact on Metro State.
Jordan’s town hall meeting in the King Center Concert Hall provided him the opportunity to explain directly to employees and the several students in attendance the complexity and gravity of the situation. At the same time he reassured the audience that Metro State is better positioned to handle what will be a 20 percent reduction in the College’s operating budget when the federal stimulus dollars run out in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
“We had a choice last spring and we took that fork in the road” to consciously plan conservatively for the uncertain economic future and to use the stimulus dollars to right size through technology, Jordan said. “I think it has paid off and will pay off.”
Governor’s 2010-11 budget and tuition
Gov. Bill Ritter’s proposed budget for 2010-11 includes a $56 million reduction in federal stimulus funds for higher education, because, Jordan said, the stimulus dollars simply ran out. Metro State’s 9 percent tuition increase this fall and $4 million in unallocated tuition revenue will help the College through the next fiscal year, in spite of fewer stimulus dollars.
Ritter has also proposed that tuition for resident undergraduates can be increased up to 9 percent next year to help offset the $56 million reduction. Jordan said that Metro State would have to raise tuition by 5 percent in the following 2011-12 fiscal year just to “hold steady” with its revenue. “There is going to be an ongoing reliance on tuition,” he said.
Tuition flexibility will once again be an important issue at the legislature for the state’s colleges and universities. This issue, which is not backed by Ritter, would establish that each institution could set its own tuition and for years in advance, if they chose. Jordan explained that this would give institutions the flexibility they need to provide the best in service and would give students advance notice of what tuition will be in the coming years so that they can better plan.
Having this flexibility could help Metro State when the permanent reduction hits in 2011-12. Jordan added, though, that the state’s fiscal situation is fluid and unpredictable and that he believes it will take a significant amount of time for higher ed’s funding to be restored.
Jordan said he does not anticipate furlough and layoffs, unless there is a further reduction in the $555 million higher education budget that Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed for 2011-12. As he explained, $555 million is the exact amount of the state appropriations for higher education in 2005-06, which is the funding level that must be maintained or the state will have to pay back all the stimulus dollars.
In response to a question from Classified Staff Council President Patricia Yarrow, Jordan said that there is no plan to reduce the current employment levels of faculty, administrators and classified staff. “Absolutely we will fill classified positions that become vacant through resignations or retirements,” he said, adding that supervisors will, of course, maintain the authority to reassign positions as necessary.
Jordan also reiterated that the College will go forward with the following priorities:
▪ Achieve Hispanic Serving Institution designation within the next decade.
▪ Continue to increase the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty
▪ The Student Success Building and the Hotel Learning Center in the Metro State Neighborhood.
▪ The recent purchase of a building in the Santa Fe Art district for the Center for Visual Art (CVA).
▪ Right sizing with technology (pdf).
▪ Master’s programs, which will be a revenue, not a cost center.
▪ Major gifts campaign when the economy improves, with a focus on creating an endowment for scholarships.
Regarding the Student Success Building, Jordan announced that the College had received a 3.35 percent interest rate on the bond, which is the lowest rate on any state building since the 1960s. “This will literally save us millions of dollars in interest,” he said.
Included in Ritter’s proposed 2010-11 budget is a one-year 2.5 percent reduction in employers’ contribution to PERA. The College is required to contribute a certain percent of an employee’s salary; under the governor’s plan, this percentage would be reduced by 2.5 percent and then backfilled from the employee’s salary, saving the state $20 million. Jordan reiterated that this would require a statutory change, “So it is not a done deal, yet.” When asked whether it was equitable that only PERA is targeted in this proposal, Jordan said that he thinks the state might be considering that employees with a defined contribution plan already are assuming financial risks, unlike those with a defined benefit plan such as PERA.
The ongoing funding equity issue
As he has explained at previous town meetings, Metro State continues to suffer an inequity in its funding relative to the other state institutions. However, he said that for the first time, members of the Joint Budget Committee are acknowledging this issue early in the funding discussion. At the Nov. 18 JBC meeting, they specifically discussed that Metro State’s 10.6 percent drop in funding was the largest cut, percentagewise, of any institution. “This doesn’t rectify the situation, but at least it has been clearly acknowledged.”
Jordan also particularly noted House Speaker Terrance Carroll’s support and his plan to host a dinner for legislators to discuss the funding of Metro State and the area’s urban community colleges.
Rallying the troops
In closing, Jordan encouraged everyone to keep their colleagues informed and contact their legislators, “but please don’t use institutional time or equipment,” to tell the Metro State story. He suggested that faculty and staff could participate in the Alumni Action Task Force as well, to educate legislators about the importance of equitably funding Metro State.
He also asked for everyone to keep sending him their ideas at suggestions. “The unbelievably great idea of the capstone project, came from one of you,” he said. (This project offers faculty who are near retirement one year’s salary from stimulus funds to work on a special project that would ultimately help the College meet future challenges in some way. At the same time, it would free up a line to hire another professor.)
Jordan ended by saying, “We’re about the students. That hasn’t changed and won’t change, irrespective of funding.”
The power point presentation and the audiocast are available at president’s speeches page a video of the event will be available there within a few days.
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