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UNC Leaning into Positive Momentum Heading into New Fiscal Year

A balanced budget, a positive fall enrollment outlook and momentum from key successes over the past year top the agenda for the last Board of Trustees meeting of the year.

One of the highlights on the lengthy agenda for the June 14 University of Northern Colorado Board of Trustees meeting was President Andy Feinstein’s update on the university’s 10-year strategic plan, Rowing, Not Drifting 2030. Launched in 2020, the university is wrapping up the second of five phases of the plan at the end of this month, celebrating a long list of accomplishments. 

Among the achievements Feinstein highlighted is the development of the public-facing Strategic Plan Progress Report that provides updates on each key action item in the plan, the continued prioritization of competitive compensation for faculty and staff as this year marks the sixth pay increase in three years, securing the funding necessary for the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine and the university’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).  

Identified as a key action in the strategic plan, university leadership launched a comprehensive five-year plan in 2020 with the goal of attaining the HSI designation by fall 2025. The university learned in March that it had earned the federal designation from the U.S. Department of Education, a full 18 months ahead of schedule.  

“This recognition marks a significant milestone in one of UNC’s top strategic priorities, and one of my top priorities since my arrival,” said Feinstein. “The designation aligns with our commitment to put students first and create an inclusive environment where all individuals feel welcome and supported.” 

Feinstein also noted that the introduction last year of two pivotal university initiatives aligned with the university’s efforts on two related key actions, developing and implementing a Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan and ensuring UNC is a Students First university. 

According to Feinstein, the First-Year Admission Guarantee, which guarantees admission to the university for eligible Colorado high school students, and the UNC Tuition Promise, which covers standard tuition and mandatory fees to eligible incoming and continuing undergraduate Colorado students, were instrumental in demonstrating the university’s commitment to eliminating barriers and providing students with an affordable path to earning a degree. 

“These two initiatives are a strong signal that equitable access and success are at the core of the student experience here at UNC,” said Feinstein. 

Following Feinstein’s update on Phase II, Kirsten Fleming, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, provided an overview of possible priorities developed through broad engagement as the university enters Phase III, the next two-year phase of the strategic plan. Fleming said she anticipates that priorities will be finalized over the summer, focusing on identifying actions and tactics that build on the progress made in the previous two phases that also position the university to realize the vision, outcomes and metrics identified for 2030. 

FY25 Budget 

Dale Pratt, vice president of Finance and Administration, submitted a balanced fiscal year 2024-25 (FY25) budget to the board, highlighting a healthy cash balance projected at $70.1 million for fiscal year-end, down slightly from $70.9 million forecasted for FY24. The trustees approved the budget, which includes $209.8 million in net revenue, $207.7 million in operating expenditures.  

The new budget is a marked contrast to the current FY24 budget as early forecasts projected a $6 million operating loss by the end of the fiscal year. However, due to the receipt of $2.8 million in unexpected income from oil and gas royalties and the efforts of the campus community to respond early to the projected FY24 shortfall, UNC will end FY24 at a positive outcome of approximately $600,000. 

“The improvement is due to the hard work of everyone in our university community to manage resources responsibly while also investing in our strategic priorities,” said Pratt.  “This was a lot of hard work and we’re grateful for the input across our campus, including our budget advisory committee.” 

According to Pratt, key drivers of the university’s favorable financial position heading into FY25 include a projected 0.7% increase in undergraduate enrollment compared to the FY24 forecast and the successful collective lobbying efforts of statewide higher education institutions of which UNC will see $69 million, a $5.9 million (9%) increase from last fiscal year. 

The FY25 budget also includes increases of 3% for undergraduate resident tuition and 4% for undergraduate nonresident tuition, graduate tuition and student fees. The maximum increase for a full-time, resident undergraduate student will be $372 per year before any financial aid is applied. However, it is expected that the majority of UNC students will see either no out-of-pocket increase or an increase that is a fraction of that total because most receive some financial aid. 

Pratt said that the FY25 budget is far more aligned to strategic institutional priorities than it has been in previous years and expressed his confidence the institution is well-positioned for the future.  

“In the coming year, we will continue to prioritize maintaining financial stability by aligning revenues with expenses, directing adequate funding to address critical resource needs and focusing on our long-term priorities,” said Pratt. 

In other news, the board: 

  • Heard a fall 2024 enrollment update from Pete Lien, associate vice president of Enrollment Services. Lien shared with the board that while it's still early and despite FAFSA delays, the university is currently exceeding its goal (1,327) for the number of new, first-time students who have confirmed for the fall (1,347).  
  • Recognized three outgoing board members with resolutions of appreciation. The trustees rolling off the board include Trustee Patricia Barela Rivera, Student Trustee Jazmin Martinez and Faculty Trustee Angela Vaughan. 
  • Approved the renaming of Mt. Evans Ballroom in the University Center to Mt. Blue Sky Ballroom. The change aligns with the fall 2023 decision by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board of Geographic Names to rename Colorado’s Mount Evans as Mount Blue Sky. The decision was prompted by a recommendation to the U.S.G.S. from Governor Polis. Mount Evans was named after Colorado’s territorial governor John Evans who was forced out of office for his role in the 1864 Sand Cree Massacre, which killed more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people. 
  • Approved various faculty emeritus and promotion and tenure recommendations. 
  • Approved the FY26 State Capital Construction Plan which includes a list of capital construction and controlled maintenance priorities for the next five years. The projects in the plan were identified and prioritized through the university’s capital planning process last fall. 
  • Approved a resolution to sell real property that includes eight single-family university-owned residences along 10th Ave. between 22nd Street and 23rd Street. The homes have been identified as underutilized assets that the university has no foreseeable need for. The properties are currently valued at $2.4 million. 

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