Modest increases proposed for tuition, employee merit pool

Regents considering range of budget options for FY 2016-17

Proposals for the 2016-17 budget year received last week by the CU Board of Regents include tuition and fee increases between 3 percent and 5 percent and an employee merit pool between 1.6 percent and 2 percent.

The board began reviewing the figures during its Feb. 18-19 meeting on the UCCS campus. Regents could vote on the plans as early as the April 5-6 meeting at CU Denver.

The merit pool for compensation increases for faculty and staff is smaller than in recent years, a result of expected funding cuts by the state, said Todd Saliman, vice president and chief financial officer. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget includes a $20 million cut for higher education, with CU’s expected share $4 million. That drop, along with the university’s effort to keep tuition increases low, also means budget cuts and less deferred maintenance across the system, Saliman said.

As outlined in Saliman’s presentation to the board, the ranges of proposed tuition and fee increases vary by campus.

CU-Boulder presented two options for undergraduate resident tuition: a 3 percent increase for each of the next four years or a one-time 5 percent increase that would then remain at that rate for the following four years. The latter is similar to a guaranteed tuition program already in place for CU-Boulder’s nonresident students.

“What these two proposals do is flip the risk (away from families), where we tell parents and students, this is what it’s going to cost you for four years,” DiStefano told the board. “The risk is really on us now, at the Boulder campus, to make sure we can be responsible in finances and making things work. Whether it’s 3 percent or 5 percent, it really changes the status quo of how we’ve dealt with tuition.” (Read more from DiStefano on the tuition proposal here.)

The proposed increase to resident undergraduate tuition and fees is 4.6 percent at UCCS and 3.4 percent (lower division courses) at CU Denver

Proposed faculty and staff merit pool increases are 2 percent at CU-Boulder and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus; 1.6 percent at UCCS; and a one-time (non-base-building) award of 1.6 percent at CU Denver. The system administration merit pool is 1.73 percent.

“It’s unusual to have different options at each campus, but the budget situations are very different,” Saliman said.

CU-Boulder has seen additional revenue from enrollment that exceeded expectations this year; that led the campus to seek the board’s approval – as required by board policy – for increasing its general fund budget by $13.3 million. The request was approved.

While CU-Boulder saw enrollment exceed expectations this year, CU Denver enrollment has fallen below projections.

“They’re making tough choices at Denver to ensure their tuition increases remain small as well,” Saliman said.

CU Denver is facing a revenue shortfall of $6.8 million in the current fiscal year; Chancellor Dorothy Horrell told the board the challenge provides “a real opportunity to be much more strategic in how we do our work, much more focused.” She said she hopes to go into specifics at the board’s April meeting.