Feb 162011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

In light of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s monumental budget cut proposals, CSU President Tony Frank believes raising tuition is the best way to cope with the university’s shrinking budget.

“In one sense, there’s not much to like about the budget we’ll be delivering to you,” Frank said in an e-mail to students Wednesday. “It raises tuition, and I think the path we are on there is bad public policy –– even though I believe it is the best plan for CSU given the options we have on the table.”
On Tuesday, Hickenlooper released his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal for the state of Colorado, which details a $36 million cut in state funding for colleges and universities as part of the total $557 million in budget-balancing included in the proposal.

The budget reduction measures are a response to the economic downturn Colorado has battled over the past few years as part of a larger national trend characterized by the recession. Hickenlooper said his fiscal suggestions are about living within the state’s means during these difficult times.
“With the way the Colorado state budget is structured currently, the governor has very few places to go to close the kind of gap that we have,” said Mark Cavanaugh, chief financial officer for the Colorado Department of Education. “Education … especially higher education that has no constitutional protection, is becoming increasingly vulnerable.”

For Cavanaugh, there is only so much the state can cut from higher education before it reaches a breaking point.

“It’s a question that every single one of us needs to grapple with,” he said. “We need to collectively, as the state of Colorado, need to look ourselves in the eye and say … what do we want going forward?”

CSU officials have been preparing for worst-case funding scenarios in which the state higher education budget gets cut from this year’s $555 million level down to $500 million. In this case the university would have about a $20 million hole to fill.

They’ve also prepared for more optimistic circumstances where the funding stays at $555 million, and CSU would only have to make up for $9 million in its budget.

Rick Miranda, CSU provost and executive vice president, said the grimmest financial situations for the university meant 10 percent funding cuts. Now, with state funding decreasing only to $519 million instead of the worst-case $500 million, he said, “That number is closer to 5 percent.”

Miranda also rejected Gov. Hickenlooper’s assertion that his budget proposal is making Colorado more business-friendly.

“Those of us who work in higher education don’t believe that cuts to higher education create a positive environment for businesses to stay,” he said. “We think that one component of the attractiveness of Colorado in the coming years is that we have a well-educated work force … and higher education is a big part of that.”

CSU’s new budget will debut March 1— the product of January planning and budget hearings with university deans and vice presidents and a two-day CSU System Board of Governors meeting this week.

The plan will outline how the university plans to save $37 million over the course of three years.

The number of CSU employees losing their jobs, Frank said, “Will likely end up at slightly over 100 of our colleagues.”

According to university figures, fiscal year 2012 will be the third year without salary increases for faculty and staff and will continue a hiring freeze. The governor’s budget also includes cuts to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, meaning a pay decrease for some in the CSU workforce.
But Frank assured the campus of CSU’s steadfastness in the face of economic downturn.

“There is reason to be optimistic as we look to the future,” he said, adding that the worst of the crisis is behind the university and that the budget is balanced.

“Our retention and graduation rates are up … Our research productivity continues at one of the highest levels in the nation … We have maintained and improved the physical aspect of our campus,” Frank said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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