Jan 252009
Authors: Elyse Jarvis

As the state waits on Gov. Bill Ritter to make his budget recommendations for the upcoming year Tuesday, its representatives and CSU leaders warned against furthered financial burdens for students, calling instead for lightened executive spending.

Interim CSU President Tony Frank cut more than $1.5 million in campus administrative positions at the end of last year – creating from them a university reserve fund – but he warned students Friday that state budget cuts could result in serious reductions in education funding, as the governor’s office projects an almost $230 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2008 to 2009.

“While not pleasant, this is news we’ve been anticipating, and I have full confidence that the CSU community will navigate this latest challenge with its usual good sense, pragmatism and confidence in the institution and its mission,” Frank said in a welcome to the campus.

Insisting that budget concerns must not affect the quality of the university’s instruction, Frank said he was looking for alternative means by which to ensure CSU’s financial future, including a previously instated hiring freeze and budget reduction suggestions from top CSU deans, provosts and vice-presidents.

Referencing the $34 million lost to state finance cuts six years ago and warning CSU faculty of possible personnel reductions, Frank said in an e-mail this month that “if the institution finds itself facing severe cuts comparable to those of 2003, it will have a notable impact.”

This year’s state reductions are variable until legislative processions commence in April.

Stressing the importance of higher education in the state, State Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said he agreed with the measures Frank has taken thus far. Heightened student tuition, he said, is not a solution, though both CU-Boulder and the University of Northern Colorado have considered opting for privatization, which would allow them to up student tuition and help balance flimsy state dollars.

“I don’t support privatizing public institutions of higher learning as a funding resource,” Kefalas said. “It’s our responsibility to ensure affordable, accessible and the highest quality education to all students who want it.”

State legislators identified a $632 million state budget shortfall for the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year this month, and Ritter will offer his proposed organization plan to the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday. Planned cuts include the areas of higher education, public education and health care.

Kefalas said there was no doubt that times are tough and that concerns regarding the “dramatic” reductions’ negative impacts are valid.

“It goes without saying that we are going to see effects in areas we all care about,” he said.

In an interview with the Collegian last month, Frank said the elimination of open faculty positions would be looked at as a “last resort.”

“We need to act, and act in ways that preserve the academic core of the university,” he said.

News Managing Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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