Budget Recommendation Committee meeting recap
The meeting included information on the Student Impact Survey, proposed state funding and the University’s fiscal status.
November 9, 2020
Friday’s meeting of the Budget Recommendation Committee began with a recap of a recent Student Impact Survey, which was completed by approximately 3,500 Roadrunners. Conducted at the end of September, the survey gives Metropolitan State University of Denver some insight into how students are managing academics and life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Balance, environment and well-being:
Responses showed that students are feeling more at balance in their environment but still feeling overwhelmed by their academic and personal responsibilities. Eighty percent of students expressed concern about completing their coursework on time, 71% reported concern about their mental health, and 70% were fearful of contracting COVID-19. Transportation also continues to cause stress for 29% of respondents, with about 520 students expressing frustration at the suspension of the Regional Transportation District CollegePass.
When asked how they feel about their synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid learning experiences, roughly one-third expressed happiness and surprise, one-third expressed frustration and confusion and the final third responded neutrally.
Students participating in face-to-face learning, however, were much more satisfied. More than half reported being happy, while only 12% experienced frustration. However, a quarter of students taking in-person courses said they did not feel safe in their learning environments due to fear of exposure or exposing others.
Technology, specifically hardware, software and connectivity, has gotten easier for students taking online courses from the spring to fall semesters. Students also had positive comments about Canvas, noting it was easier to navigate and stay on track with assignments. However, connectivity remains an issue depending on a student’s location, having to share Wi-fi with multiple users, etc. This has complicated synchronous classes and created challenges in using Yuja, Teams, ProctorU and others.
Nearly 90% of respondents said they enrolled in fall courses to remain on track for degree completion at MSU Denver, while others reported that MSU Denver is a placeholder or more affordable option while they are waiting to complete their degree at another university. When asked if they planned to stay at MSU Denver, 47% said “yes,” citing cost, location and program offerings; 35% said “maybe”; and 18% said “no.”
In answering the question “How likely are you to register at MSU Denver for the spring 2021 semester?” 65% of students marked “extremely likely,” 24% marked “likely” and 11% marked “unlikely” or “extremely unlikely.” Reasons for not enrolling included graduation, being unhappy with the learning environment, plans to transfer and lack of money.
The next survey will be administered in Week 3 of the spring semester. Contact Angelica Moreno for more information.
Proposed state budget
Members also reviewed Gov. Jared Polis’ recent budget proposal, which would restore higher-education funding to fiscal 2019-20 levels and include several one-time allocations. MSU Denver’s funding share would total approximately $226,000 more than its fiscal 2020 allocation. This would return the University to roughly $3.5 million in state support, which will cover roughly half of our estimated mandatory increases related to library costs, compensation, technology contracts, etc., but still leave a gap of $3 million in expected fiscal 2022 budget needs
The committee also discussed a report that compares revenue and expenditure levels of Colorado public colleges and universities with in-state and out-of-state peers. Overall, Colorado colleges and universities operate with less state appropriations, with MSU Denver receiving only 48 cents for every dollar spent on our peer institutions. The committee also reviewed data on net tuition and fee revenue, unrestricted state and local appropriations and how to advocate for MSU Denver.
MSU Denver’s 2020-21 budget
The University is still considering a Phase III budget in the event that budget reductions made thus far were not sufficient. That recommendation will be finalized by Dec. 18. The recommendation could include further budget cuts or no change to the current course. The Budget Office has recommended covering the remaining budget shortfall through reserve funds. As spring approaches and more information about the estimated tuition revenue is available, that decision will be revisited. The University is also cautious about making decisions in the current fiscal year that will cause added strain in 2022.
The committee received an update on savings gleaned through voluntary and mandatory furloughs, which together totaled slightly less than $3 million, more than the anticipated $2.4 million. Expected faculty equity promotion costs also came in slightly lower than expected at $365,000. This means the University has reduced its remaining shortfall from nearly $2.5 million to $1.8 million, which can be covered by our current base reserve of $1.9 million. However, the shortfall amount will change based on spring enrollment and other factors. The University also has $7.9 million remaining in reserve after minimum-wage increases and credit-card processing fees.
“Currently, our estimated budget shortfall can be covered from the base reserve, and we have carved out a reasonable amount from our fund balance to help sustain our ongoing one-time (costs) for next year,” said Cipriana Patterson, budget director. “This is good news and means that the actions we’ve taken in the last few months could be enough to get us through this year; however, this is all contingent on spring enrollment.”
The next BRC meeting will be held Nov. 20. Watch for more details in the Early Bird.
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