President's Campus Communication 1/12/09

In times like these, our commitment to serve our students and the citizens of Colorado is more important than ever. We stand on the shoulders of all those before us who have built this great university, and as we respond to economic turbulence and uncertainty, we will continue to remember this.

In previous years, we have seen the state’s prosperity wax and wane. As you know, we have never been immune to economic shifts, and this time is no different. There is no question that in the short term we will receive less state support. As the Colorado state budget slides as a result of decreased personal and corporate income tax, capital gains tax, and sales tax revenues; financial support for higher education is significantly affected. Initial projections indicate that Colorado must reduce its entire state budget by at least 10 percent over the current and next fiscal year combined. However, history has shown that higher education absorbs a disproportionately high portion of state budget cuts, and the reduction in our direct state support will most certainly be greater than 10 percent.

We have learned from previous experience that we must be proactive to retain control of our destiny. Our campus-wide efforts to develop an academic plan and to make our budget process more transparent have prepared us for a time such as this. Our shared priorities will guide our financial decisions.

As we move forward, it is important that we do the following:

1.      Maximize revenues. We will continue to invest in the growth of the university. For example, we are stepping up our recruiting efforts and attracting the students that can benefit from a UNC education. We are increasing the number and type of recruiting fairs we attend/sponsor, increasing scholarships (e.g., First Generation Scholarship and Greeley Promise), implementing new and more targeted marketing initiatives to in-state and out-of-state students, and increasing the number of admissions officers to focus recruiting efforts in key markets including Greeley, Denver, Longmont, etc. We are also pursuing initiatives to increase enrollment in our graduate programs, extended studies, and online courses. Our enrollment future looks bright because of our strategic decisions to invest in more creative and aggressive recruitment and retention efforts. Emphasis on obtaining additional grant funds and the success of the emerging capital campaign are also critical elements of funding university operations.

2.      Optimally set tuition and fees. There is a direct correlation between state financial support and tuition and fees. Currently, Colorado ranks 49 th in the U.S. for state financial support. It would take a $675 million state funding infusion to support Colorado higher education at the same level of state appropriation as our national peers. While the state historically has limited our ability to increase resident undergraduate tuition and fees, we have had greater latitude to increase tuition and fees for graduate programs, out-of-state students, and online programs. We will be working with the state to maximize our Board of Trustees’ ability to set tuition and fees at a level where we maintain an optimal value position. At the same time, we are committed to making UNC accessible to all students who have the desire to come and can meet our academic standards.

3.      Invest selectively and manage expenditures. We will continue to invest in our core activities. For example, we must continue to attract, recruit and retain students. We must continue to deliver our academic offerings at the highest level in order to fulfill our mission. Over the past year we have seen student retention increase significantly, and further increases will offset the impact of budget cuts. Strategic investments in academic advising, learning communities, the University College, the freshman experience, and the UNC Center at Centerra are important to our growth and to creating a unique student experience. In order to continue making these investments, we will have to cut back on other expenditures. I invite you to provide ideas as to where we can postpone and/or eliminate spending while protecting the university community we have been building over the past few years. The university’s most important asset has always been and will continue to be our people.

As we progress in this effort your involvement will be crucial. We will provide you with ongoing communication, and there will be opportunities for you to provide feedback through avenues such as an interactive budget website and open forums.

We have come a long way together. As I said in the State of the University address, you have created a critical mass of positive energy on our campus. With your help, I am confident that we will continue moving forward in the face of any challenges that come our way.

Sincerely,

 

President Kay Norton