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MSU Denver trustees vote to increase tuition and support for students

Members considered the financial impact on students, the long-term sustainability of the University and research from the Budget Recommendation Committee.

By Lindsey Coulter

September 9, 2020

Auraria Campus with Denver cityscape in background.The Metropolitan State University of Denver Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to increase spring 2021 tuition by 3% for resident and nonresident undergraduate students. President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., shared the news with the University community in an email Tuesday, noting that the difficult decision was based on months of research and discussion as well as a sincere effort to “balance the financial impact on students at this challenging time with the long-term financial health and sustainability of the University.”

“Over the past five months, MSU Denver has worked tirelessly to save money and cut spending, which allowed the University to avoid a tuition increase for the fall 2020 semester,” Davidson wrote. “But ultimately, if we continue making cuts, we will not be able to fulfill our academic mission or properly serve our students.”

Beginning in the spring 2021 semester, resident students will see an increase of $8 per credit hour, and nonresidents will see an increase of $25 per credit hour. The board also voted to maintain most of the reduced fall 2020 fees structure for spring 2021. The move is anticipated to reduce the University’s budget shortfall by nearly $2 million.

During the Finance Committee’s Thursday meeting, Alaura Ward, student trustee, advocated for the financial well-being of students and noted that the increase could mean many Roadrunners will be unable to continue their studies. Russell Noles, vice chair of the board, said this reality weighed heavily on committee members. In response, trustees committed to redirect $680,000 of tuition revenue back to financial-aid resources for students with the greatest need.

Trustee Mike Johnston added that the University’s decision to increase the minimum wage will also directly support student employees. Rather than maintaining the state minimum-wage rate of $12 per hour, MSU Denver will direct funds generated from the tuition increase to raise the hourly minimum wage to $12.85 immediately, $14.77 on Jan. 1 and $15.87 a year later.

“We thought it was important to pay those student employees the highest wage possible,” Johnston said. “In order for us to honor that commitment, it makes it necessary to do this tuition increase. We didn’t want a scenario where we were both holding student wages and increasing tuition.”

Trustee Mario M. Carrera noted that this decision also puts MSU Denver ahead of the curve, as legislation to increase the minimum wage passed but implementation and compliance have moved slowly.

“What MSU Denver is proposing makes a strong statement and should be duly noted,” Carrera added.

The University will also strategically use Minority-Serving Institution CARES Act Grant funds to provide student assistance and continue efforts to develop Open Educational Resources to lower students’ textbook and material costs. Noles applauded the work of numerous University leaders in identifying resources and opportunities to soften the financial impact on students.

The board also noted the importance of ensuring that every student who is eligible to receive financial aid and other supports is able to access relief from the tuition increase. The University will continue efforts to ensure that students apply for FAFSA and continue legislative advocacy efforts to increase funding to the institution overall.

Topics: Board of Trustees, Funding, Tuition

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