Board continues budget review, approving tuition rates for next year

Regents OK modest increases, air concerns over affordability

While awaiting final approval from the General Assembly for the state’s 2017-18 budget, the CU Board of Regents continues to advance CU’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

On Friday, during the second of its two days meeting at CU Denver, the board approved proposed salary increases for faculty and staff (see story).

The board also approved proposed increases in tuition. For resident undergraduates, rates will rise 3.18 percent at CU Denver, 3.99 percent at UCCS and 4.91 percent at CU Boulder (for incoming freshmen and transfer students). Continuing students at CU Boulder won’t see an increase, because of the guaranteed tuition structure introduced last year.

While the compensation and tuition votes were unanimous, other budget matters brought to the board by Todd Saliman, vice president and chief financial officer, were approved with mixed support.

Higher-than-expected enrollment at CU Boulder and UCCS led to revenue that exceeded budgets. Campuses must seek board approval when wishing to spend overages greater than 1.5 percent.

UCCS sought approval to spend $4.1 million, or 2.98 percent above its 2016-17 revenue budget, for salaries, benefit, financial aid and general operations. CU Boulder’s revenue increase of .93 percent did not meet the 1.5 percent threshold, but the campus still sought approval for adjusting its budget and spending the $7.1 million in additional revenue. The campus reported the overage would support enrollment growth, information technology infrastructure, human resources and increases in insurance premiums.

While both items were passed, Regents John Carson, Heidi Ganahl and Irene Griego voted against them.

“I feel like, when we have additional money over the budget, it ought to go directly into reducing tuition,” said Carson, R-Highlands Ranch. “I’m still not satisfied that we have gotten enough of a handle on tuition. … The middle class is just getting hammered by constant increases in tuition. We’ve got to get the budget growing slower than it is.”

Ganahl, R-Superior, said she hopes to see “innovation and new ways of thinking” to lower costs. “One thing I heard loud and clear on the campaign trail last year was that college is too damn expensive for everybody.”

Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, said he agrees that the current model is unsustainable and that some students are being priced out of higher education. But he said he wouldn’t vote against the spending items, partly because CU and other state institutions of higher education are disadvantaged by subpar state funding.

Finally, the board approved increases in student fees: for full-time students at CU Boulder, $75.10; CU Denver, $37; and UCCS,$8. The vote was 7-2, with Carson and Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, voting no.

Sharkey said that while she shares board members’ concerns about rising tuition and college affordability, she encouraged colleagues to take a closer look at fees that might result in “students paying for things they do not use.” Regent Jack Kroll, D-Denver, a former student government leader at CU, said he supports the student volunteers who “make sure they’re spending the students’ money wisely.”

When combined, tuition and fees for resident undergraduates will increase 3.14 percent at CU Denver and 3.43 percent at UCCS. While continuing students at CU Boulder won’t see an increase, the rate will be 4.82 percent higher than last year for incoming freshmen and transfers.

The final CU budget for 2017-2018 will be voted on by the board at its June meeting at UCCS.

See the full budget presentation here.