Published: April 2, 2020

At its April 2 meeting—the first regular meeting to be hosted remotely—the University of Colorado Board of Regents heard an update on COVID-19 impacts on university operations and state and university budgets, approved name changes to seven graduate and undergraduate degrees at CU Boulder and approved minor changes to regent policies that affect vacation and sick leave and compensation.

At the opening of the meeting, Chair Glen Gellegos and President Mark Kennedy praised the response of the entire CU community to the COVID-19 pandemic and thanked CU students, faculty and staff for their commitment, patience and hard work.

“I want to express my appreciation to all members of the CU community and to those on the front lines helping their communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kennedy said. “You exemplify the best of the University of Colorado’s value and contributions.”

Update on COVID-19 impacts to 2020–21 budget

University of Colorado Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Todd Saliman updated the board on the statewide budget landscape, impacts to campus budget projections caused by COVID-19 and possible steps for balancing the budget.

Saliman reported that the state’s March 2020 revenue forecasts are declining and that a new CU forecast indicates state revenues are expected to fall approximately $2 billion short of funding the Governor’s FY 2020-21 budget request. Saliman and Vice President of Government Relations Tanya Kelly-Bowry also provided a comprehensive overview of federal stimulus packages aimed to help states, institutions of higher education, and students recover from this economic crisis. Saliman explained that the duration of the economic downturn is the key factor to understanding the impact on the state budget, which has been delayed in order to refine estimates of the economic downturn and better understand Colorado’s budget shortfall, determine Colorado’s share of federal relief funds and determine options toward balancing the state budget prior to June 30. 

Saliman reported that CU Boulder accounts for $34 million of the University of Colorado system’s $44 million in estimated initial losses due to the COVID-19 virus. Saliman explained that most of these losses come from refunds for housing room and board fees for spring 2020, from costs related to supporting wages for student employees who are unable to work and additional campus health and safety needs related to the pandemic.

With a small percentage of the campus budget historically coming from the state, CU Boulder’s funding is highly dependent on tuition and related revenues. Campus officials are closely monitoring enrollment projections in order to better understand potential enrollment impacts on summer and fall terms. Virtual campus visit programs began this month, allowing incoming students and families to continue to explore CU Boulder colleges, schools or programs, even as much of the nation is impacted by ongoing stay at home orders. 

Next steps for CU Boulder

Saliman reported that as the state budget shortfall and enrollment projections are better understood, campuses will consider a number of measures to balance their campus budgets. Saliman noted that many of the strategies mentioned are alternatives that may be considered as the situation evolves, and that many decisions have not yet been made. 

Beyond university leadership deferring the decision on the CU’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget and its primary components—tuition, fees and compensation pools (announced on April 2 by Chancellor Philip DiStefano and President Kennedy in a memo to the Boulder campus)—potential budget-balancing measures for the Boulder campus include the following possibilities:

  • Eliminating targeted investment based on enrollment growth at schools and colleges
  • Reducing investment in deferred maintenance
  • Reducing investment in classroom technology and infrastructure
  • Hiring and promotion only for non-faculty critical functions upon officer approval; tenure clock delay
  • The possibility of employee furloughs, layoffs or early retirements

“These are challenging times for all of us, and we are examining all of the options we have to support our students, faculty and staff and ensure our public mission,” said Chancellor DiStefano. “We are part of a global dynamic that is impacting individuals and institutions around the world, and we are working collaboratively with our campus, system and government partners, as well as our students, families, faculty and staff—to learn from this crisis and develop strategies that can make us better and position us for a rapid recovery.”

Name changes to CU Boulder degrees

In other board updates, the board approved two degree name changes for the Department of Theatre and Dance:

  • MA and PhD in Theatre to “Theatre and Performance Studies”

The board also approved changes to the names of five degrees in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS):

  • BS in Technology, Arts & Media to BS in Creative Technology and Design
  • Minor in Technology, Arts and Media to Minor in Creative Technology and Design
  • MS in Technology, Media and Society to MS in Creative Technology and Design
  • Professional MS in Technology, Media and Society to Professional MS in Creative Technology and Design
  • PhD in Technology, Media and Society to PhD in Creative Technology and Design 

Updates to HR policies

The board also approved several minor policy changes that affect vacation and sick leave and compensation. The changes, which have been in place for several weeks and have not presented major concerns, include the following:

  • Recommendation to remove the section that allows vacation balances to be over  maximum accrual rate in extraordinary circumstances. 
  • Addition of language that allows appointing authorities to establish periods of time when vacation leave will not be allowed. Most commonly attached to the start of semesters, year-end processing, or other business necessities. 

Full details on all presentations are available on BoardDocs.