Fellow Bears:

I hope everyone is keeping warm and staying healthy. As many of you are aware, last week we had two meetings with the Board of Trustees – on Thursday, the Finance and Audit Committee met and then a full Board meeting on Friday. Both meetings were very productive and I would like to share some important updates.

First, I am pleased to announce the Board approved Phase 1 of our Strategic Plan, Rowing, Not Drifting 2030. A sincere thank you to everyone who played a role in finalizing this document. There has been a significant amount of work dedicated to strategic planning efforts and I am excited to see this first phase come to fruition. While COVID-19 continues to demand much of our attention, it is also important that we make strides on executing the priorities outlined in our strategic plan, advancing the work we started together before the pandemic began. Additional information on strategic planning efforts will be coming next week, as we will soon unveil a new strategic planning website that will be a helpful resource as we continue this important work.

With good news around vaccines, decreasing COVID-19 cases, and our intention to bring our community back together on campus this fall, our outlook for fall 2021 enrollment is more encouraging. The university currently has more admitted students for the fall 2021 semester compared to all of last year. Our Office of Admissions is projecting 2,225 new undergraduate students (first-time and transfers) at UNC this fall, which would be an increase of 266 students compared to fall 2020.

While UNC is still facing significant financial challenges due to COVID-19, our belief is that we have weathered the storm. Keeping our university on a sustainable and sound financial footing for the future is extremely important to me and the Board. This is the third year in a row the university has not spent more than it brought in, better positioning UNC to invest in its future. I am confident we are in a position to do so.

We are grateful for the financial relief we have received from the federal government and as I mentioned at our weekly operational status update call on Thursday, I have approved a plan for how the university will disburse our Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds. UNC received a total of $12.6 million from the federal government -- $3.8 million will be going directly to Title IV-eligible students and $8.8 million in one-time funding will be used toward institutional relief to address some of the campus backlog and deficits that resulted from the budget cuts we have made this fiscal year.

More information will be coming this week to our undergraduate and graduate students outlining how much money they can expect to receive and how to claim their funds. I also want to assure our DACA students that the university will be providing aid to you as well to meet your financial needs during this time. Knowing many of you have faced financial difficulties during the pandemic, my hope is this aid will be of some assistance. Additional details about how the university plans to utilize institutional relief from the federal government will be shared in March.

At our Finance and Audit Committee meeting on Thursday, we also began the discussion around tuition and fees for the 2021-22 academic year. We elected to not raise tuition last year. Before any scholarships or financial aid are applied, the cost of tuition and fees for a full-time, residential undergraduate student at UNC is $10,061. Most students pay less than this "sticker price” and 30% do not incur any out-of-pocket expenses associated with tuition and fees.

When comparing other in-state institutions, UNC’s cost of attendance ranks among the lowest in Colorado. In fact, UNC is currently the most affordable research institution in the state. We are also priced about five percent below our national peers. While we are committed to remaining accessible and affordable, we also need to assure we have the level of funds available to support the high-quality education we provide at UNC.

Final decisions on tuition and fees will not be made by the Board until June, but it is important to begin the discussion. Any increase in tuition and fees would be a decision made very carefully among the Cabinet and the Board, with input from the campus. It is my hope that we can provide community forums on the topic (following COVID-19 protocols) to inform our students, faculty, and staff about the process, show how UNC compares to other in-state institutions, and allow you to provide feedback prior to any decisions being made.

For those who were unable to attend the Board meetings and are interested in watching, they can be viewed at unco.edu/trustees. Additional information recapping the Board meetings can be found at https://www.unco.edu/news/articles/recap-finance-audit-board-trustees-february-2021.aspx.

Rowing, Not Drifting,

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Andy Feinstein