Colorado Universities Brace For Reduced Budgets Under COVID-19

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Colorado State University administration building in Fort Collins.

Facing a possible $4 billion budget shortfall starting next year, the General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee recently posted future budget options for state-funded universities in 2020-2021. 

Before the state legislature went to an extended recess, higher education was expecting a 7 percent budget increase and up to 3 percent salary increases for state university workers. 

A recent Joint Budget Committee document proposes zeroing out those increases. It also suggests capping tuition rate hikes for many public universities at 3 percent. 

Many Colorado universities are preparing for even leaner times. At a University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, CU Chief Financial Officer Todd Saliman said campuses are planning for budget cut reduction scenarios at 5, 10 and 20 percent. 

Saliman said additional cost cutting measures could include reduced travel, reduced student services, reduced institutional aid and possible elimination of programs.

Economically lean times in Colorado have brought unfavorable outcomes for higher education in the past. In 2009, state universities faced a proposed loss of tens of millions of dollars in state funds. That came at a time when higher education dollars had yet to recover from cuts in 2002.