As we approach the final months of FY21 and prepare for FY22, I am writing to provide an update on the university’s financial health and ongoing budget work across the university. First and foremost, I want to express my appreciation for the sacrifices so many of you have made in the past year, including with your respective budgets. A number of cost-saving measures and strategic decisions have allowed us to be in a more stable financial position despite the impacts of COVID-19, which created a $28M budget shortfall ($23M decreased revenue, $5M increased expenses) at the university. This work, while challenging and difficult at times, is extremely important. From the initial formation of the Coronavirus Task Force, to the summer work of the Financial Task Force, to the proactive work of individuals across the university to respond and pivot as the environment changed, the way we have invested our resources has helped mitigate the long-term, negative financial impact of the pandemic.
While we have recently received short-term financial relief from the federal government to offset some of our losses, it’s important to acknowledge that a complete financial recovery from the pandemic, particularly its impact on our enrollment, will take several years. Rebuilding our enrollment by welcoming new students and continuing to improve retention through student success measures will be critical. We will be using all sources of funding—federal, state, and students’ tuition and fees to strengthen our university and invest in our strategic plan.
UNC received $12.6 million from the federal stimulus package passed in December. $8.8 million was allocated for institutional use while $3.8 million was distributed to our students. The university is following guidelines from the federal government regarding how these funds can be used. In an attached PDF, you will see a high-level breakdown of plans for spending the full $12.6 million. This relief funding will allow UNC to address infrastructure needs that were deferred due to the financial impact of COVID-19 (40%), distribute $3.8 million to students (30%), and invest in our strategic plan (30%).
The $3.8 million that will be invested in Rowing, Not Drifting 2030 will have money allocated toward each of our key actions. A few examples of this include:
- Develop and implement a plan to ensure UNC is a student ready university at all academic levels -- Investments in Fall 2021 Welcome Week, student lab and classroom technology, and equipment and programming for student activities and engagement.
- Create systems of accountability, effectiveness, and collaboration to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion across the university -- Investments in equipment for the cultural centers and staff development opportunities.
- Enhance and redefine career readiness in the curriculum of all disciplines – Investments in badging and co-curricular software.
And, with the newest federal stimulus package passed by the House on Wednesday, we anticipate UNC will receive an additional estimated $22 million in one-time relief dollars, half of which will be distributed directly to our students. We do not yet know how the use of the remaining funds will be regulated but anticipate applicability through FY23. Our first priority in the FY22 budget is to judiciously restore many of the one-time cuts we made in FY21.
Other key elements that make up our budget include state funding and student tuition and fees. We continue to lobby legislators for the restoration of lost funding, and money to cover core minimum operating costs. The Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee deliberations are ongoing and we are optimistic that the state funding picture will clarify in early April. As discussed at the February Board Finance and Audit Committee meeting, we also are evaluating tuition and fee rates for next year. Affordability for both undergraduate and graduate students is a priority and UNC will remain the most affordable research institution in Colorado under any tuition scenario being contemplated.
There are more moving pieces at play in our FY22 budget than is typically true at this time of year. Because we want to ensure that all the funding available to us is fully invested in revitalizing our infrastructure, enhancing student resources, and other items that support Rowing, Not Drifting 2030, I’ve asked each of the vice presidents to scrutinize their budget, judiciously restore one-time cuts, and allocate resources within their division in ways that supports the strategic plan.
The following is a timeline that outlines the process for developing the FY22 budget:
March 29: High-level budgets are due to Budget Office from VPs
March 31: Cabinet budget update
Early April: President’s Leadership Council budget update and budget office processing/analysis
Mid- to late-April: FY21 third quarter financial update; FY22 draft budget prepared, campus budget town hall
May 7: Board of Trustees Finance and Audit Committee meeting – preliminary FY22 budget is presented
May 10-31: Budget revisions as necessary
June 11: Board of Trustees meeting – full Board discusses FY22 budget presented
A year ago we were just beginning to grapple with the effects of Coronavirus on our campus, our students, and our faculty and staff. Looking back, I’m proud of all we have done to continue to serve students in unprecedented times—a phrase that has become trite, but no less true. Looking ahead, I am optimistic that the 2021-22 academic year will be one of celebration and success as we return to full in-person instruction and student life activities.
Rowing, Not Drifting,