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Budget Recommendation Committee recap

Members received an enrollment update and considered tuition and fees for spring semester.

By Lindsey Coulter

August 10, 2020

JSSB exterior surrounded by trees with spring buds.The Aug. 7 meeting of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Budget Recommendation Committee began with an update on fall enrollment. Enrollment continues to trend in a better direction; however, total enrollment remains down 8.97 percent overall. However, there were several promising figures. The percentage of students using veterans benefits are up 6.81 percent, and while first-year enrollment is down 17.57 percent, upper class students have been retained at a much higher rate with only low-single-digit decreases.

Michael Nguyen, director of Enrollment Management Systems and Operations, noted that reaching the University’s goal of only a 5% enrollment decrease is likely unrealistic when considering the trends, but multiple efforts could help stabilize enrollment at 8% down, before considering typical declines at census.

The University remains heavily engaged in calling campaigns and will host a virtual registration event on Aug. 12. Ongoing web updates continue to improve the student user experience and answer pressing questions about the fall semester and accessing online and hybrid classes.

Working group update

Ann Murphy, Ph.D., dean, College of Business, presented on spring 2021 planning progress. Murphy leads a cross-functional working group charged with developing a strategy for constructing the spring semester schedule. The team’s goal is to return as many classes as are safely possible to campus, with the assumption that the need for social distancing will persist.

The group’s recommendations currently include maintaining the same three-tiered course system developed for the fall semester; maintaining the three-tiered system and also adding some general studies and first-year-level courses to help address declines in first-year enrollment; and to maintain the same tiered structure while moving some courses to tier 2.

The group is also navigating spatial constraints, as only 84 classrooms are able to accommodate social distancing for 10 or more students. Members are further considering costs related to offering low-enrolled class sections, building out larger classroom spaces, and adding technology to facilitate a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

These recommendations have been presented in a decision memo to senior leaders, who will likely deliver a decision later this week.

Phase II Budget Discussion

The committee then considered four topics requiring recommendation to senior leadership or further committee discussion.

Recommendation No. 1: One-time budget allocation

The BRC’s revised recommendation includes allocating $7.2 million to cover branch one-time priorities; setting aside $7.2 million for the University reserve; adjusting budgets after fall census; and that the Budget Office will provide an update to the BRC in October.

BRC members moved to recommend.

Faculty promotion equity

Honoring faculty promotions remains a priority for the BRC and the University. While MSU Denver is pausing CUPA and across-the-board annual pay increases. George Middlemist, Ph.D., associate vice president for administration/CFO, noted that adjustments made last year to newly promoted faculty created pay inequities for promoted faculty this year. Middlemist worked with Academic Affairs and faculty leadership to develop recommendations to address this inequity despite the current economic challenges. Middlemist asked the committee to consider a recommendation for increasing all promoted faculty to the salary levels of faculty promoted last year. Middlemist also noted that enacting this recommendation will create compression in faculty salaries and set a precedent that could pose budgeting challenges in the next fiscal year.

Bill Henry, Ph.D., interim provost, recommended using the same CUPA adjustment strategy for promoted faculty as has been done in the past to address compression issues. Middlemist noted the strategies were similar in cost, and fielded several other questions concerning pay equity for both faculty and staff, estimated timelines, CUPA and general state and University budgeting practices.

The BRC voted to recommend adjusting salaries for faculty being promoted to full or associate professor to the CUPA range for their position according to CUPA levels for the last fiscal year. The recommendation will be incorporated into the committee’s decision memo to senior leaders.

Recommendation No. 2: Spring and summer tuition and fee schedules

Members next debated spring and summer semester tuition and fees, considering potential impacts on students, the learning environment and budget as well as the larger economic outlook. A decision on the spring semester will be made during the September meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Committee members considered the impact of a 1.5% tuition increase for resident students and 3% increase for nonresident students, noting that students may still face the same economic barriers that many are experiencing as we enter the current semester. In dollars, this increase would translate to $54 per semester for resident students and $168 per semester for non-resident students.

Members posed questions on tuition elasticity, student financial barriers and support, institutional budget impacts, projected spring enrollment, reputation impact, future Joint Budget Committee requests and more.

Committee members moved to recommend maintaining fall semester-level fees through the spring semester. Members also requested more time to consider potential tuition increases and to weigh the recommendation decision with their offices and departments.

Update: Covering potential FY 2020-21 budget shortfall

Prior to discussing ideas for covering a projected budget shortfall for the 2020-21 fiscal year, members noted that the education and general budget has already been reduced by 5% through base changes and voluntary and mandatory personnel actions. As departments are already operating on incredibly lean budgets, the BRC recommendations include:

  1. Using up to $3 million from the University’s education and general reserve, leaving a $6.4 million balance.
  2. Using up to $1 million from the University’s overhead reserve, leaving an estimated balance of $.6.6 million
  3. Using fund balance from the above sources and Summer Revenue Sharing and other Auxiliary funds.

Topics: Administration, Funding, Inclusive leadership

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