CU Regents Increase Tuition, But Federal Pandemic Relief Funds Will Put It Off For A Year

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Snow blanketed the University of Colorado Boulder campus on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Students were allowed to return to some dorms and in-person classes earlier this month.

The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted Thursday to raise tuition for undergraduate students by 3 percent, but will use federal relief funds to buy down that increase and effectively keep prices the same for one year. 

The vote passed 6-2. Regent Chair Glen Gallegos was not in attendance. University officials proposed the increase in February, citing a need to make up for a budget shortfall of $218 million.  

The CU System will use about $22 million of federal coronavirus relief funds to provide a one-time rate increase buy-down to students. 

By voting to increase tuition, even while using federal funds to delay it a year, the university essentially bakes in a tuition increase for the freshmen enrolling in 2021 that they and their families won’t feel until 2022.

“It'll be a one-time post-pandemic tuition credit,” CU CFO Todd Saliman said at the regent meeting. “All students who would have been affected by the tuition increase would receive the credit.”  

Republican Regent Heidi Ganahl praised the use of federal dollars to temporarily keep tuition the same for students, but voted against the measure. 

“My first priority is keeping college affordable and accessible for all Colorado students, especially, and raising their tuition is a step in the wrong direction right now, especially during a pandemic,” Ganahl said. 

Regents also voted to approve some student fee increases and to provide temporary raises for non-classified staff using more federal relief money. The remaining funds will be used to balance CU’s reserves. 

The tuition increase is the first for the CU system in three years. It will apply to both resident and nonresident students. Undergraduates continuing their education on the Boulder campus are covered by the university’s tuition guarantee program, which freezes their tuitions and fees for the first four years of enrollment.