Decoding the CSU budget

Feb 282011
Authors: Erin Udell

On Monday afternoon, members of the CSU campus and Fort Collins community gathered in the Lory Student Center’s Cherokee Park Ballroom to take an in-depth, interactive look at the university’s budget, the changes it has endured and the changes it will likely see in the future.

CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda and Associate Vice President for Finance, Lynn Johnson, presented steps of the budget and planning process, discussed the university’s current financial standing and exposed some of the latest numbers for the next fiscal year.

According to Miranda, the planning and budgeting cycle goes through a two-year process, with the first year focused largely on planning, the second year focused more on the budgeting phase and the third on refreshing the budget.

The budget that the university will continue working on throughout spring will go into effect on July 1 and is the culmination of two years of thinking since the summer of 2009.

Every third year, the university takes a deeper look at how to make investments and revise the strategic plan, creating new goals and strategies for the monetary future.

And since that third year of CSU’s current strategic plan is here, the university will start the restructuring this coming year.

According to Johnson, the university’s current financial standing shows that revenue has been steadily growing despite a slight drop in 2010.

“We’ve been growing,” Johnson said. “Things are pretty constant.”

And as for the CSU schedule of state support, there has been a change from the state paying two-thirds in the early-90s to students now paying that amount, with the state paying the rest.

“This has happened a few percent every year for 20 years,” Miranda said. “This is the reality.”

But with people asking why higher education is so expensive, Miranda clarified that while costs may be up, the university is not spending more than previous years — they are actually spending less.

“We’re a much better institution than we were 20 yearsago,” Miranda said. “The criticisms are not really accurate, and it comes from students only seeing the tuition bar and not university spending.”

But despite an increase in tuition over the past few years, Johnson made a point of saying that undergraduate tuition and fees are in the bottom 30 percent compared to CSU’s peers.

As for CSU’s budget outlook for the 2012 fiscal year, state reductions are possible and, according to Miranda, projected at $6.1 million.

In line with the fiscal year 2012 Draft Incremental E&G budget, which was revised Monday, revenue from tuition will total at $32.8 million, with more money coming in from the closing of the credit hour gap, something that could generate $525 per student/per semester.

And, according to Miranda, with the federal stimulus money going away and the governor’s million-dollar funding cuts, the university will have around $13.32 million to cover new expenses.

After these new expenses, totaling $12,857,358, are covered, there will be a remainder of $462,642.

“Even with all the revenue enhancements, the results of these state cuts are having an effect on the bottom line,” Miranda said. “We’ll be refining these numbers over the course of this next week, but this is a preview of what it’s getting close to looking like.”

In recent months, the administration had been looking at cutting between five and 10 percent from university programs, but Miranda is pleased with ending up on the lesser side of those possible cuts.

“The way this budget is ending up is actually on the lower scale,” Miranda said. “We’re not pleased at having to make cuts, but we’re at the lower end of things and that shows that we planned sufficiently for this downturn.”

Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at

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