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Budget Recommendation Committee meeting recap

Members discuss enrollment trends, financial reserves and feedback on Phase II scenarios.

By Lindsey Coulter

July 20, 2021

MSU Denver flagFriday’s meeting of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Budget Recommendation Committee began with two items of positive news: Enrollments are continuing to trend upward, and the University’s financial reserves are strong.

Enrollment update

As of Friday:

  • Summer Preliminary Enrollment Report
    • State-funded full-time-equivalent student enrollment is down 13.26% compared with 2020.
    • Head count is down 12.33% compared with 2020.

As of July 13:

  • Fall 2021 Preliminary Enrollment Report
    • State-funded FTEs are down 10.74% compared with 2020 (a 1.4-percentage-point improvement from last week).
    • Head count is down 8.66% compared with 2020.

As of July 12:

  • Summer 2021 Applications
    • Applied is down 13.14%.
    • Accepted is down 13.75%.
    • Registered is down 23.06%.
  • Fall 2021 Applications
    • Applied is down 7.71%.
    • Accepted is down 1.77%.
    • Registered is down 7.48%.

To continue driving enrollment and registration in the right direction, MSU Denver is engaging in a variety of student outreach and data-gathering to understand enrollment trends and why some students are choosing not to return to campus. Nationally, however, enrollment tends to trend upward as the fall semester approaches.

The University will host a virtual registration event Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. RSVPs open today and will close Aug. 1. The event includes a drawing for five $500 scholarship opportunities for students registered in 6 or more credit hours by Aug. 15.

Learn more in this past Friday’s full Enrollment Update PowerPoint Presentation .

Phase II Budget update

With the year-end almost complete, the budget team was able to provide an estimate on the educational and general-fund balance available for allocation (in addition to HEERF monies). The University’s estimated general-fund balance is a little over $29 million. George Middlemist, Ph.D., associate vice president for Administration/CFO, noted this is one of the healthiest cash positions he has seen in his time with the University, anticipating that MSU Denver could end the year with a strong fund balance due to strategic savings (including monies not spent during the pandemic on events, travel, etc.) and federal funding. This estimate does not include HEERF II or HEERF III monies.

Altogether, requests for one-time funding total nearly $14 million. Should all requests be funded, the University will likely have more than $15 million left in reserves for strategic reinvestment back into the University.

Additionally, the year-end analysis of the full-time faculty and administrator fringe rate (including items such as insurance, retirement, etc.) has resulted in a reduction to the overall rate (as insurance premiums have not increased as expected), freeing up existing base budget totaling approximately $1.1 million for allocation in Phase II. The presentation included three enrollment-projection scenarios that would net between $1.1 million (assuming enrollment remains low) and $7.6 million (assuming enrollment improves) remaining for allocation.

After an invitation was issued to all branches to submit feedback, the Student Affairs branch is the first to provide a response for allocating those dollars. The branch provided recommendations based on the three potential enrollment scenarios, including distributing one-time stipends to employees (assuming enrollment remains low), a 1% raise for staff OR investing in hiring new positions (assuming moderate enrollment growth) and a 3% raise for all staff (assuming higher enrollment growth). Middlemist outlined several possible scenarios based on estimated funds available for base allocations.

See the full Phase II Budget Update PowerPoint presentation , including one-time and base funding.

Comments and considerations

President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., made a surprise appearance, thanking committee members and emphasizing the importance of strategic alignment in the budget process.

“There’s no such thing as strategy unless finance is aligned,” Davidson said.

She went on to highlight the opportunities that one-time funding and the federal emphasis on community college may provide for MSU Denver and encouraged a continued focus on improving service to transfer students and adult learners. 

Members also discussed investing in staffing capacity, ensuring that positions are sustainably funded to avoid losing high-quality employees. The committee also discussed making strategic investments using temporary resources that would be targeted toward supporting longer-term enrollment stability and improvement. Other topics included student retention, future enrollment projections, competition from other institutions, targeting transfer students and adult learners, upskilling, developing degree and certificate programs, and marketing strategies.

Provost Alfred Tatum, Ph.D., noted the potential for growth among online and graduate programs and the need to make better and more strategic use of grant funds and other funding sources.

“We are surrendering a lot of real estate – partnerships, research, etc. All of those are essential to diversify our resources and our portfolio,” Tatum said. “We’re going to have to have a conversation (about that) because tuition revenues and state funding will not get us where we need to go.”

Larry Sampler, chief operating officer and vice president for Administration, also weighed in on a question regarding merit-based vs. across-the-board pay increases.

“We don’t have the systems in place at MSU Denver to (offer merit-based pay increases) right now. It’s on the table, it’s being considered, and it’s good to know that people support it, but I don’t want to create the perception that it is coming immediately,” Sampler said.

Next steps

This Friday’s BRC meeting in the Center for Advanced Visualization and Experiential Analysis will focus on final funding scenarios that will be shared with the campus community for review. Members will vote on funding allocations July 30. The meetings will be held in a hybrid in-person and virtual format.

Topics: Events, Funding

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