Itâ€™s that time again, Rams, time for unusually long emails from our fearless leader, CSU President Tony Frank. And, as students go into their sixth week of classes this semester, many may have noticed the first official presidentâ€™s update on current budget issues Monday morning.
What do you hope to achieve by sending out these budget emails?
Frank: I think so much of the universityâ€™s budget right now rests on students and, in large part, their satisfaction. We want people to be informed and involved with the process.
Q: In your email, you mentioned that the Colorado fiscal year 2012-2013 budget may have a $300 million surplus. How much of that do you think could come back to CSU and restock some school funding?
F: If these projections hold, letâ€™s just say for the sake of argument they do, there will be reserve funds that the state could want to restore funds with. At the end of the day, that 300 million, wherever it goes, at the very least, will lead to less cuts in the future. I think thatâ€™s the idea, if revenues are starting to come up, thatâ€™s a good sign for us, no matter where that money goes.
Q: Also in your email, you wrote that CSU could be facing potential cuts of up to $15 million in the next fiscal year. What will these cuts look like and where will they come from?
F: Thatâ€™s what we will be dealing with through this planning process this fall. We have trimmed budgets a lot at CSU and I think weâ€™ve already eliminated all of the low-enrollment, low-performance programs. Having said that, weâ€™ve never just cut across the board and have tried to make cuts focus on administration and infrastructure support. We try to spare the classrooms and laboratories as much as possible.
Q: How do you try to strike a balance between keeping your faculty happy and balancing a budget that wonâ€™t allow pay increases?
F: This is a key question. As with many things, itâ€™s easy to identify the problems at the ends of the spectrum â€“ itâ€™s harder to find the balance in the middle. I worry a great deal about the possibility of going a fourth year without salary increases for all employees â€“ including faculty. Some of our best and brightest are pretty mobile and have a lot of national and international career options and our employees are â€“ without a doubt â€“ CSUâ€™s most precious and valuable asset. On the other hand, balancing the budget with a salary increase included puts more pressure on tuition (threatening the access mission that is at the core of being a land grant university) and cuts, which in our budget situation generally means laying off employees since more than 80 percent of our expenses are for personnel. Weâ€™ll discuss the pros and cons of all the options as we move forward and try to find the best balance for the university as a whole.
Q: Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the higher ed crisis?
F: Iâ€™m optimistic about this. We have a great story to tell in terms of return on investment to the taxpayers of Colorado and as I speak to groups across Colorado, I get the sense that a great many people, including the business community, understand the importance of a healthy system of public higher education. I canâ€™t say that I understand what form a solution will take, but I do believe that if Coloradans get involved in a conversation about what we need and want as a state and how to go about getting it, the solution will include higher ed.
Q: On the lighter side, any exciting plans for homecoming weekend?
F: Look, anytime you get to ride in a parade, chat with people who are coming back to visit their alma mater and watch the Rams win a football game, itâ€™s a pretty great weekend without any extra plans!