Colorado Public Colleges and Universities Facing Massive Cut in General Fund Support

By Goodland, Marianne | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), May 20, 2020 | Go to article overview

Colorado Public Colleges and Universities Facing Massive Cut in General Fund Support


Goodland, Marianne, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


The legislative Joint Budget Committee made its single largest cut in trying to find $2 billion in savings for the 2020-21 state budget by voting Tuesday to remove 58% of the general fund support for the public colleges and universities.

Lawmakers voted to go much further than committee staff had been suggesting.

At the beginning of the budget-cutting exercise on May 4, the staff had presented 10% and 20% across-the-board cuts, and they received information Tuesday what a 30% general fund cut, or $246.8 million, would look like. Even though staff analyst Amanda Bickel did not recommend it, that was “the level of cut that may be required for budget balancing,” she said.

Bickel told the JBC that colleges and universities within the Department of Higher Education are among the few state agencies that could sustain such cuts because those funds represent a small portion of most state college and university budgets, which rely more heavily on tuition revenue.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, made the motion to cut 58%, a figure not contained in Bickel’s recommendations.

He was asked several times to repeat his motion. “And how much is that?” asked Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale. The answer: $493.2 million. The cut would be distributed proportionately to the state’s governing boards and stand-alone colleges and universities.

The motion passed unanimously without opposition, but reaction on social media was swift and shocked.

“This is devastating. I’m speechless,” tweeted Jen Greenfield, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.

Peg Perl, the election chief for Arapahoe County and mother to a “rising senior” (a student who will be a high school senior in the fall) simply tweeted ”gulp.”

Bickel suggested allowing the institutions, particularly community colleges and Metropolitan State University of Denver, flexibility in tuition increases. Tuition for 2020-21 had been capped at a 3% increase. However, the JBC voted to keep the tuition hikes at that same 3%. …

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