I was going to send this Monday, but I didn’t want anyone to mistake it for an April Fool’s joke. (And yes, I expect to hear plenty of wisecracks from the lot of you about the scheduling of the Cubs’ season opener yesterday.)

Long Bill passed, $30 million increase for higher ed

So now, on April 2, I’m happy to share the news that, with still a month left in the legislative session, the state Senate passed the state budget Long Bill last week, including in it a $30 million increase for higher education next year. This would mean an additional $6.1 million for the CSU System, which includes our campus, CSU-Pueblo, and the CSU Global Campus, with about $5.4M of this coming to our campus. The bill also includes a $5.3 million increase in state-funded, need-based financial aid, which will directly benefit our students. Higher education also received an allotment of $7.5 million in one-time, supplemental funding for next year, with about $1.5 million of this designated for the CSU System. All of this is good news and aligns with the budget planning we’ve been doing here on our own campus. Here’s the latest version of our draft budget.

Senate Bill 236, state-funded capital construction

Senate Bill 236, which also passed the Senate this week, deals with state-funded capital construction. For the first time in quite a while, it looks like there will be new funding available for state capital construction projects. Most of this is being focused on smaller projects, so some of our major initiatives will remain at the front of the line awaiting the next increment of improvements.

As you all know, a student facilities fee at CSU has supported the construction of new buildings and classroom renovations during a time period when there’s been no state support for such efforts — and we’re so grateful to our past and current students for looking at CSU as their alma mater even before graduation. But there are limits to what our students can and should be expected to support, and so the restoration of some state capital funds is a very welcome change for our campus and higher education statewide.

Salary increase approved for state classified staff

And not having been able to communicate a whole lot of positive news in these budget e-mails over the last several years, I really get to enjoy this next part: The Joint Budget Committee approved a salary increase for our state classified staff of up to 3.6%. This particular group of employees hasn’t had a base-building increase in years, so this is well-deserved and parallels the 3% increases we’ve been modeling for our faculty and administrative professionals.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played before all of this is done and before we take our own budget for next year to the Board of Governors for approval in May. Our high spirits also have to be tempered by recognizing the deep cuts that higher education and CSU have taken in recent years — even with this latest increase, our budget is still quite a bit lower than it was before the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009 — and the danger of defunding within a decade if non-discretionary spending can’t be brought into balance with revenues. But this latest news has us all breathing just a little easier in the short term, and we’re grateful to the leadership in the Department of Higher Education, the State Capital Development Committee and the Joint Budget Committee for recognizing the serious fiscal challenges facing higher education in Colorado.

On the federal front, the sequester

On the federal front, not much has changed since my message to campus a few weeks ago. We’re still monitoring the situation with the sequester, analyzing the impacts and trying to understand the specific implications for our campus and our federally funded programs and agencies. Like the rest of the country, we’re working through those questions day by day with the best information we have available.

But all in all, this isn’t a bad way to start the month of April — have a great week!


Dr. Tony Frank