I want to inform you of a financial oversight decision I have made that is in the best long-term interest of our students and the university—and one that won’t have an effect on day-to-day operations of student-run facilities.
For many years, CUSG has overseen a multimillion-dollar budget and been responsible for many operations, such as major campus facilities, bond debt, personnel and student programming. It’s a tall task for anyone to have that responsibility and can be especially difficult when student leaders managing the funds turn over every year. This model makes it challenging to engage in meaningful long-term planning. While the chancellor has ultimate authority over how student fees are spent, the responsibility has been primarily delegated to student government leaders through an agreement with CUSG.
After careful review and in consultation with Senior Vice Chancellor and CFO Kelly Fox, Provost Russell Moore and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Christina Gonzales, I have decided to move the majority of the CUSG funds oversight to Student Affairs staff. CUSG will be relieved of the burden of managing professional staff and facilities such as the University Memorial Center and Recreation Center but will remain responsible for programming and funding student organizations with a $1.9 million budget. My executive team and I look forward to working with the current and incoming CUSG leaders on a smooth transition.
This decision is not a reflection on the current CUSG leadership, nor due to any malfeasance. Rather, over the years, I often saw opportunities missed for major savings and efficiencies as short-term priorities took precedent over long-term planning needs. Decisions by CUSG leaders have not addressed important necessities, such as keeping up on the maintenance of our student-run facilities.
For students who are concerned about how this will impact the services you value and pay for, let me be clear: You won’t see a difference in day-to-day operations. For example, the Recreation Center and UMC will operate as normal. Student organizations will continue to be funded. Student-run boards will still bring speakers of their choosing to campus.
In fact, based on cost savings in this new model, I am allocating an additional amount of nearly $150,000 to go toward student-run groups such as the Distinguished Speakers Board, Cultural Events Board, Program Council and student organizations. CUSG leaders and their appointees will continue to manage this $1.9 million budget and plan associated programming. The student body will continue to have a voice on the fee advisory board and other advisory committees.
The new model will also allocate an additional $250,000 in student fee funds directly to the United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS). This will allow funds to be dedicated to meet graduate student needs without passing through CUSG.
As I made this decision, I considered how other student governments operate among our Pac-12 peers. Most Pac-12 schools have student government budgets of $1 million to $2 million and focus on student organization and event funding—not oversight of facilities and professional staff. Arizona State University, for example, has nearly double the number of undergraduate students at 59,000, yet its student government budget is $2.4 million. This decision brings CU Boulder in line with our peers.
As chancellor, I am charged with ensuring efficient use of all our funding and making decisions that are fiscally prudent over the long term. To that end, I also want to keep tuition and student fees as low as possible while continuing to achieve our academic mission. Earlier this academic year, I announced the Be Boulder Pact, which includes boosting scholarship programs and eliminating course fees next fall at an annual savings of $8.4 million.
I believe having CUSG continue to manage student programming while turning over long-term fiscal planning to Student Affairs staff is in line with this philosophy of spending every dollar wisely.
Philip P. DiStefano