CU successfully containing costs for students

Across campuses – and family income brackets – affordability trends are strong

Despite market pressures and limited state support, University of Colorado campuses are effectively containing costs for students pursuing degrees.

The Board of Regents last week reviewed data showing that the average cost of attendance for resident undergraduates who apply for financial aid has stayed roughly constant, when adjusted for inflation, over the past five years at CU Boulder, UCCS and CU Denver.

Cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, housing, food, books and miscellaneous expenses. Comparing the 2014 and 2018 fiscal years, that annual amount rose just slightly at CU Denver (from $24,457 to $24,664) and UCCS (from $25,397 to $26,611); at CU Boulder, it dipped from $29,766 to $29,279.

The data from the CU system Office of Budget and Finance was presented by Todd Saliman, vice president of budget and finance and chief financial officer, during the board’s Nov. 9 meeting at UCCS.

The presentation also drilled down into out-of-pocket costs – defined as average cost of attendance minus average grant aid, adjusted for inflation – for resident undergraduates applying for financial aid. Those five-year figures also were reduced at CU Boulder in each of five household income categories and roughly flat (slightly up or down, depending on category) at UCCS and CU Denver.

“We need to get this message out more,” said Regent John Carson. “This is an amazing legacy to President Benson and university leadership … particularly when you consider how little state aid we receive. It’s a reflection of controlling costs and bringing in additional revenue. I am so pleased.”

Regent Glen Gallegos said he, too, was encouraged by the achievement in affordability and access, but cautioned that the sticker price remains daunting to many Colorado families.

“A four-year degree is still costing $100,000,” Gallegos said. “We’re doing everything we can to cut those costs … but the argument is that college is too expensive and leaves students with too much debt. I don’t want that to be forgotten.”

Regent Heidi Ganahl agreed that the cost may be steep, but said it’s important to be mindful of a college degree’s return on investment. President Benson this week wrote about such value in his newsletter.

In other business on Nov. 9, the second day of the board’s two-day meeting at UCCS:

  • The board approved a $45 million building addition that will connect CU Boulder’s Engineering Center, home of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, to the Koelbel Building, home of the Leeds School of Business. Read more in CU Boulder Today.
  • The board approved splitting the UCCS doctoral program for engineering into three distinct doctorates (engineering, computer science and security). Read more in Communique.
  • Regents Kyle Hybl and Stephen Ludwig, both of whom were attending their last full board meeting, were honored as regents emereti. Read more in Communique.
  • Lesley Smith and Chance Hill, both of whom won election to the board last week, appeared briefly to introduce themselves to the board and others in attendance. They will be sworn in in January, as will Regent Glen Gallegos, who won re-election.
  • Liz Concordia, president and chief executive officer of UCHealth, updated the board on activity at the system, which launched a strategic plan two and a half years ago. Plans for 2019 include the expansion of Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs and the opening of new hospitals in Highlands Ranch and Greeley. “We have been aggressive in growing, but it’s purposeful growth,” she said. 
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