Zero tuition increase at Colorado State University as on-campus classes return for 2020-21

Deep job and unit cuts averted: Board taps CARES and reserve funds to protect CSU’s strength

CSU President Joyce McConnell
CSU President Joyce McConnell

Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell today announced that, with the approval of the university’s budget for next year, students at Colorado State University will pay the same tuition as last year, and CSU will avoid the deep reductions, pay cuts, and job losses seen at other universities across the country.

The Board of Governors of the CSU System voted June 5 to approve proposed budgets for all CSU campuses, pending completion of the Long Budget Bill by the Colorado General Assembly. The budget package deploys federal stimulus funds, Board reserves, and proceeds from Board-initiated debt refinancing to preserve jobs, hold tuition steady, and avoid salary cuts for employees. More information can be found here.

The budget McConnell brought forward for approval by the Board includes $17 million in funding cuts to the campus that will be managed primarily through elimination of open positions and voluntary early separation incentives. These cuts are far different from the original $143 million shortfall the campus would have faced without the Board’s deployment of these various funding sources.

McConnell’s campus budget also calls for strategic investments in a range of areas including research, IT infrastructure, and student success. The strategic investments also support CSU faculty across all disciplines, ranks, and designation of tenure-track or non-tenure track, as essential members of the university community.

“We are moving forward boldly, holding steady on the cost of a great education while supporting engagement throughout our state and transformative research around the globe. We are able to focus on the future thanks to the financial wisdom of the Board of Governors in planning for emergencies and the leadership of Governor Polis and the Joint Budget Committee in distributing federal CARES funds,” said McConnell. “We’re the region’s largest employer, so keeping Colorado State University healthy is crucial for Northern Colorado’s economic recovery, and this budget is a great collaborative effort that truly supports our students and employees.”

President McConnell has been leading a campus-wide analysis of places where CSU can tighten its belt ever since the Board asked campus presidents to devise budgets that preserved jobs and avoided salary cuts. She affirmed that the collaborative spirit of that recovery planning process will continue as the university looks at next steps in the coming days and weeks.

“The success of our recovery depends on all of us working together and bringing our best ideas and efforts to the table,” McConnell said.

Systemwide analysis of possible scenarios

After exploring the impact of different levels of funding cuts, the Board voted instead to use the reserves it established after the Great Recession – along with emergency state and federal aid provided through the CARES Act – and to refinance some debt, to minimize the impact on students and the System’s universities as they prepare to reopen for on-campus instruction in the fall.

Without these resources, and facing potential enrollment impacts from the pandemic, the System would have faced a $164 million budget shortfall – $143 million of that on the Fort Collins campus – that would have demanded significant staffing cuts because about 80% of CSU’s budgets are spent on personnel.

“Our campuses are among the largest employers in their regions, so laying people off into a high unemployment economy fuels downward economic pressure,” said CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank. “While no university can expect to be spared the consequences of this economy, we wanted to assure that we were also positioned to help lead the economic recovery, as universities did following the Great Recession. The plans the Board adopted found that balance and will serve Colorado well.”

Strategic Investments in FY2021

  • Promotions for Tenure Track Faculty
  • Promotions for Non-Tenure Track Faculty and increasing their compensation floor
  • Promotions for Administrative Professional and State Classified employees
  • $1 million IT infrastructure
  • $500,000 Research
  • $500,000 Student Success
  • $522,000 Mental Health Initiative
  • $350,000 Title IV program
  • $350,000 HR and Procurement
  • $1 milllon Marketing through University Communications
  • $500,000 Public Safety, with Board support

Supporting students and research

As CSU prepares to welcome a new class of first-year students to campus for fall semester, the university’s vice president for Enrollment and Access, Leslie Taylor, is grateful for the Board’s decision to approve a budget that holds tuition levels at last year’s rates. It’s a move President McConnell advocated for at the Board’s meeting in May and leading up to the budget vote, and which Taylor says will mean that students whose families may be struggling with the financial or health impacts of the pandemic can better focus on their education.

“All of our students and their families are facing challenges we couldn’t have imagined when the semester began in January or as we worked with students applying to join us at CSU this fall,” said Taylor. “It is critical for us to remain focused on equitable access to higher education for all Colorado students in the coming years.”

The budget support also comes at a time when CSU’s expertise is having a powerful positive impact in Colorado, across the country, and around the world as dozens of CSU research projects aim to discover ways to fight the coronavirus and understand and control its spread.

“While the pandemic has challenged our budgets, it has also shown the critical role our university has in educating Colorado’s future workforce and leaders, and in conducting important research to better understand and fight health threats like the coronavirus,” said Rick Miranda, CSU’s provost and executive vice president.

Frequently asked questions

FAQs about the budget and campus efforts moving forward and will be updated as more details become available at