Taking charge of our future: Budgets and innovation at CU-Boulder

Published: Feb. 19, 2014

The university is undergoing a lot of change. An important step in weathering this change is to ensure the campus community as a whole has a strong understanding of how the University of Colorado Boulder is financed and the challenges and opportunities we face as an institution.

To start that process, you are invited to join us for a new series, Coffee and the Campus Budget, hosted by Senior Associate Vice Chancellor of Budget Steve McNally and me over the next couple of months. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to get the insider’s view by signing up at bit.ly/CampusCoffee to attend on a first-come, first-seated basis. Look for those dates to be published next week in CU-Boulder Today, as part of a series of articles discussing the university’s financial environment and some of the changes we are making to take charge of our future.

This week, the campus will begin discussing with the Board of Regents the parameters for setting the FY 2015 budget. As you may have read, the state is proposing an 11 percent increase, which means the Boulder campus should see an approximately $6 million increase. This will provide much-needed revenue, but does not restore funding to FY 2008 levels when we received $86.3 million, and the long-term predictions for state support and higher education remain pessimistic. For the next year though, the state increase brings welcome news. As a result of the state increase, the campus has worked hard to keep tuition rate increases to a minimum. The campus will propose at the Board meeting this week that resident tuition rates increase by approximately 3.5 percent or $13/credit hour.

These revenues will be used to support our mandatory expenditure increases that include: utilities, health insurance, portions of compensation and other items. The state has proposed a classified salary increase of 4.5%. In addition, the campus is proposing a 3 percent salary pool for faculty and exempt employees, second year funding for our Esteemed Scholars program, and will make much-needed investments in training and compliance functions as well as deferred maintenance and technology.

However, while the FY 2015 budget picture is optimistic, in the long run many challenges remain for funding the campus. State support is not sufficient to cover current and future costs. Tuition rates will not increase at the rates seen historically. Recruiting students has become more competitive, and federal research funding remains constrained. These revenue pressures are coupled with increasing expense pressures such as deferred maintenance, technology upgrades, compliance, and the need for increased investment to ensure student success. 

As we move forward to manage this set of challenges, we need to become more innovative in how we generate revenue and begin to look at ways to slow the growth of expenses. Together as a campus, we will look at several revenue and expense initiatives over the coming the year. Today, we are setting a goal of generating an additional $10 million in available funding by FY 2016. We will generate those funds through increasing existing revenues and creating new revenue streams, as well as cost containment. In the coming weeks, you will see more information about these initiatives. I encourage each of you to join in this effort. If you have ideas for generating revenue, curbing costs, or would like to participate in these efforts, please e-mail me at svc.cfo@colorado.edu.

While there are challenging times ahead, I am confident that we will be a leader and successful in dealing with these pressures and challenges. 

--Kelly Fox, Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer