Oct 012009
Authors: Madeline Novey

The aftershock effects of the bad economy that have shaken the foundations of higher education funding have the CSU System Board of Governors unsure of how to avoid falling off the “cliff” in 2012 when stimulus funding runs out.

Avoiding the fall is not just a challenge but a requirement for survival, BOG Chief Financial Officer Rich Schweigert said to the BOG Thursday, adding that its members need to continue participation in a larger conversation: saving higher education.

“The whole point (of my presentation) was that the higher ed community needs to come together and say, ‘What are we going to do?'” he said after the board’s Finance Committee meeting in the Lory Student Center Grey Rock Room.

According to September projections reported to the board, the state would experience a $560.7 million revenue shortfall in the fiscal year 2010, equating to further cuts to state agencies and higher education institutions. The projected shortfall will grow to $1.33 billion and $1.64 billion in the next two fiscal years.

Projections in both fiscal years do not include the $320 million in current cuts or the need for $345 million in new funding for projected caseload increases in the Departments of Human Services, Medicaid, Corrections and K-12, Schweigert reported.

In April, state universities were faced with the possibility of a $300 million cut — triple the amount Gov. Bill Ritter advised in January — which would have cut the $130 million CSU currently receives from the state in half, CSU-Fort Collins President Tony Frank said in an e-mail to the Collegian in early May.

The shortfall left a $30 million hole that will be filled by money from President Barack Obama’s stimulus package. But this money is slated to run out in FY12.

Conversations about the future of higher education are underway and in its Sept. 21 meeting, the Finance Committee came up with a series of solutions:

Generating new or more valuable revenue streams

Reducing expenses throughout the System, which includes the CSU-Fort Collins and CSU-Pueblo campuses and the online institution CSU-Global, and its offices, and

Asking for less regulation and greater operating flexibility from the General Assembly that would include independent tuition setting authority, continued involvement in developing a solution to state budget woes and increasing the System’s visibility among higher education and elected officials.

In these uncertain times, board members were open and interested in Schweigert’s proposals, with the help of Frank, CSU-Pueblo President Joe Garcia and others, regarding higher education reinvention.

One included privatizing portions of the CSU System, thus removing it from state control and the uncertainty that comes with connected funding.

CSU-System Chancellor Joe Blake said similar institutions, Cornell for example, have successfully existed under the dual public-private model.

In terms of increasing System visibility and generating private funding streams, CSU-Fort Collins has raised more than $290 million as part of its capital fundraising campaign, which the university announced to the public on Aug. 29.

Members of the board decided to redefine the System’s business model to compensate for the continuing degradation of state funding and further develop solutions to the higher education crisis by the board’s December meeting.

“Well, we’ve really got our work cut out for us,” Marguerite Salazar, BOG treasurer, said.

News Managing Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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