Published: Jan. 29, 2021

In a Jan. 29 letter to faculty and staff, CU Boulder Provost Russ Moore and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke asked the campus to prepare for continuing budget cuts in the fiscal year that starts in July 2021 and ends in June 2022 (referred to as fiscal year 2022). 

The letter cited commitments made last fall to academic units to act with transparency in addressing budget gaps, minimize impacts to CU Boulder’s institutional mission, support units’ abilities to plan by avoiding additional mid-year cuts unless “absolutely necessary” and provide “budget-planning scenarios for fiscal year 2022 to enable schools, colleges and academic and administrative support units to plan for any budget-balancing decisions that might be needed.” 

“In keeping with these commitments, we are sharing with you today that, after careful analysis, it is clear that we need to proactively develop planning scenarios for continuing budget cuts of 3%, 4% or 5% for fiscal year 2022. We will have more accurate projections as we get further into the spring, however, we do not anticipate that the final cuts will drop below 3% or exceed 5%,” the letter said.   

The letter said the cuts made earlier this fiscal year “were one-time, temporary cuts” while “the planning parameters for fiscal year 2022 include permanent or continuing cuts.” In setting the new budget, Moore and O’Rourke said, “we will approach cuts strategically and not implement across-the-board cuts.”

The cuts come as a result of current conditions that include a lower base budget due to the smaller fall 2020 incoming class and a decreased retention rate this year that will affect next year and beyond. 

“We are prioritizing ending the furloughs and temporary pay reductions implemented earlier this fiscal year, as well as an increase to the minimum hourly wage across campus,” the letter said. “We also expect increases to mandatory costs, including financial aid, pay equity requirements and debt payments. The combination of the increased costs and reduced revenue leave us with a projected budget shortfall for next year ranging from approximately $30 million to $48 million.”

The letter laid out a spring semester trajectory of working with college and school leaders to identify budget reductions within guiding principles that will be grounded in institutional priorities such as diversity, equity and inclusion; improving student, faculty and staff experiences and engagement; and ensuring we can continue to meet our mission as a public teaching and research university.   

“Academic and administrative units will have broad discretion on how to make the requested reductions. The opportunity and the long-term goal is to build greater fiscal resilience in support of the university’s academic and research mission as a top-tier public university,” the letter said. 

The letter also noted increases in applications for the fall 2021 incoming class and the governor’s budget request, which includes the restoration of higher education funding to pre-COVID-19 levels as a signal that budget reductions would stay within the stated projections.  

“By working and planning together and continuing to focus on using budgets strategically and working more closely as a campus community to serve our mission, we believe our university will, with time, emerge stronger from the setbacks of the last year. We remain deeply grateful for and inspired by your continued sacrifices, hard work and service to our students, each other and the public,” the letter said.