The February CU Board of Regents meeting marked the first in-person board meeting of the new year and attracted a larger crowd than usual to the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria campus.
Public comment kicked off the Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 session, during which a CU Boulder faculty member, joined by dozens of supporters, many who were holding signs advocating for better working conditions and higher compensation, asked the board to support Senate Bill 23-048, which would change the maximum length allowed in a contract between a university and non-tenured track employees from three years to five. CU President Todd Saliman addressed the faculty in the room, noting, “Our faculty are the backbone of our institution. They are the ones who fulfill our primary mission, which is to educate people.”
Next, several students took to the podium to share heartfelt testimonials on CU’s policy on concealed carry, which states that anyone who has a valid Colorado concealed carry permit is allowed to carry their weapon on campus. The Boulder students spoke against the current policy and a Denver student spoke in favor of the current policy.
The meeting also marked the start of an annual process of reviewing and approving campus budgets. CU Denver presented an overview of its enrollment picture and projections, as well as scenarios for tuition, fees, and compensation increases. In April, the Board of Regents will review and approve the final tuition, fee, and compensation changes for next fiscal year.
Below are key takeaways from the latest Board of Regents meeting.
New Board Members
Last November, three seats previously held by outgoing regents Sue Sharkey, Jack Kroll, and Heidi Ganahl were up for election. This month’s meeting was the first full meeting for three new regents: District 1’s Wanda James, D-Denver; District 4’s Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch; and Mark VanDriel, R-Greeley, from the newly created District 8. Board vice chair and District 5 regent Ken Montera, R-Colorado Springs, who was previously appointed to the Board of Regents by Governor Jared Polis in December 2021 was also elected in November to serve the remainder of his term.
Shared Governance Recognized by Campus Leader
Cindy O’Bryant, chair of the CU Faculty Council, resumed a previous Board of Regents meeting tradition: having the host campus’ faculty governance leader give a report. Joanne Addison, English professor and chair of CU Denver’s Faculty Assembly, acknowledged the university’s shared governance structure, which includes Faculty Assembly and Staff Council. “I can honestly say that the state of shared governance has never been better than it is right now on our campus,” said Addison, who has been at the university 27 years. “What’s really important and different here is that we are putting accountability measures in place when it comes to shared governance.” She credited Chancellor Michelle Marks’ leadership and said that the campus’ shared governance structure should serve as a model for the CU system.
The update from the System Staff Council advocated for stronger and more consistent professional development opportunities for staff, including earlier registration for campus courses, and called on CU to “practice its purpose.” On the CU Denver campus, Staff Council is planning to roll out the findings of its recent Job Satisfaction Survey this spring, and a Years of Celebration event for staff is planned for March 13.
Michael “Axel” Brown, UCCS’s Student Government Association President and Chair of the Intercampus Student Forum (ICSF), provided an update on behalf of students at the four campuses. The ICSF, which is made up of campus Student Government Association presidents, is currently working on aligning campus safety priorities and campus goals for the upcoming year.
In light of enrollment shifts nationally and regionally, CU Denver’s enrollment per the fall 2022 census is under budget by 2.5%, meaning tuition and fee revenue is coming in slightly below budget. A presentation highlight is that nonresident enrollment is up 9.2% over budget, driven by strong increases in both undergraduate and graduate international students. For fiscal year 2023-24, CU Denver projects an enrollment decline of 2.7% for undergraduate students and 2.3% for graduate students. Additionally, new first-year students are anticipated to remain around current levels, new transfers are expected to decrease (which is in line with nationwide trends), and continuing undergraduates are projected to decline due to pandemic-related enrollment decreases experienced since fall 2020. As a point of comparison, CU Boulder’s overall enrollment is projected to be down by .7% and UCCS’s overall enrollment is projected to be down by .9%.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget Jennifer St. Peter emphasized that projected enrollment numbers are meant to be conservative and are not to be misread as the university’s enrollment targets. “We have ambitious enrollment goals, but we budget conservatively to make sure we can cover expenses and provide a quality experience for our students,” St. Peter said. Our enrollment aspirations and targets are overseen by Senior Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Success Monique L. Snowden, PhD, who recently communicated to the campus community about our enrollment vision and strategy.
Tuition and Fees
Some of the CU campuses proposed scenarios with tuition increases of up to 5%, which would go into effect in fall 2023. Additionally, in keeping with university practice, CU Denver would increase financial aid to help offset financial increases for lower-income students. Increases to student fees are still being discussed and will be finalized before the April meeting.
Compensation and Benefits
CU Denver proposes setting aside a 5% salary pool that will be used to provide a combination of merit increases for all faculty and staff who qualify, as well as to address compression, retention, and equity among employees. Campus leaders are still working through how the 5% pool would be split up. CU Denver’s budget also includes a 7.9% increase to the employer contribution for health, life and, dental benefits to cover rising costs—a trend seen across industries.
Ongoing Budget Strategic Realignment of Resources Process
In addition, the report included an update on budget reductions that the CU Denver community has been working on as part of its Strategic Realignment of Resources initiative, which launched in November 2022. The university will balance its budget by reducing up to $12 million from 2023 to 2025. The community is receiving regular updates on the process through biweekly information sessions in addition to ongoing work with various bodies, including shared governance, throughout the university.
The budget proposal submitted to the Board of Regents does not include any specific program cuts or reductions as the realignment process is not yet concluded. No decisions on specifics cuts are expected until March, just in time to submit updated information to the Board of Regents in advance of its April meeting.
In a presentation to the board, Chancellor Michelle Marks highlighted the College of Architecture and Planning’s two-year design-build program project at Cape Shirreff in Antarctica, in which students, faculty, and alumni built sustainable shelters on CU Denver’s campus that were successfully transported to the field camp, where they will be used by NOAA scientists conducting marine ecosystem research. She also highlighted the university’s new five-year designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, which brings opportunities for grant funding and student workforce development. Last, she touched on CU Denver’s 50th anniversay, which the university officially celebrated on Jan. 11 with a special tour of the Centennial House renovation at campus’ Ninth Street Historic Park.