Apr. 8—The University of Colorado Board of Regents today voted to increase tuition by 3%, but also voted to use a portion of $54.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to keep the cost out of students' bills for one year. They also voted to use some of the funding to provide temporary pay increases for most employees.
System leaders initially proposed raising tuition by 3% next year to account for increasing costs, including those related to the pandemic, and proposed not providing pay raises for most employees.
But the revised proposal approved by the Board of Regents today uses $54.4 million from the third round of federal coronavirus relief funds to "buy down" the tuition increase for one year, meaning students will see no increase in tuition for the fourth consecutive year. The 3% tuition increase will go into effect in academic year 2022-23. Regents will vote on tuition increases again next year.
Non-freshman students at CU Boulder are already covered under the campus' four-year tuition guarantee, but students who are freshman next year will see the 3% tuition increase their second year.
CU Boulder will also extend its tuition guarantee so that seniors who struggled because of the coronavirus pandemic this year can finish their degrees during a fifth year on campus at the same tuition rate.
The board voted 6-2 to approve the tuition proposals. Democratic Regents Lesley Smith, Jack Kroll, Nolbert Chavez, Callie Rennison and Ilana Spiegel and Republican Regent Sue Sharkey voted in favor and Republican Regents Heidi Ganahl and Chance Hill voted against. Republican Regent Glen Gallegos was absent.
While there was resistance to the initial system proposal to increase tuition, Smith said, staff listened to student and regent concerns.
"I think they have developed a solid proposal that provides financial relief to students this year in a very creative way while ensuring CU is able to continue providing a quality education in the future," she said.
Ganahl, who has been a vocal supporter of tuition refunds for students and not increasing tuition, said while she appreciated the efforts gone into offsetting the tuition increase, she could not vote for the increase overall.
"My first priority is keeping college affordable and accessible for all Colorado students especially, and raising their tuition is a step in the wrong direction right now, especially during a pandemic," she said.
Regents also approved a 2% monthly pay raise for non-classified employees from July through December, also be paid for with federal relief funds. Classified employees, whose salaries are decided by the legislature, are set to receive a 3% raise next year.
The temporary pay increase will bridge the gap between a shift in the system's compensation cycle. Previously those decisions were aligned with the fiscal calendar and went into effect in July, before student enrollment numbers — and campus revenue — were known. Going forward, CU will tie pay increases to student enrollment and pay increases will go into effect in January.
The compensation proposal passed 5-3, with Smith, Kroll, Chavez, Rennison and Spiegel voting in favor and Ganahl, Hill and Sharkey voting against.
Remaining relief funds will be used to restore financial reserves that were drawn down during the pandemic and make up for lost revenue, Chief Financial Officer Todd Saliman said.
Increasing tuition provides the university with some predictability, Saliman said, even if students don't pay it the first year. Not approving it could have imperiled CU Boulder's tuition guarantee, reduced financial aid and had impacts on faculty and staff.
"One of the critical things for budgeting is predictability, and now that we have predictability we can make longer-term decisions," he said. "We can make investments in financial aid and faculty and deferred maintenance that we wouldn't have been otherwise able to make."
The system is awaiting guidance from the federal government on how to distribute the $54.4 million student share of the pandemic relief funds, Saliman said.
CU system leaders are also advocating for further state and federal relief, including additional financial aid funding from the state and doubled funding for federal Pell grants, which help students who demonstrate financial need.