CSU budget meeting sees permanent cuts, major revenue loss

Serena Bettis

In the wake of a global recession, Colorado State University has plans for major budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year. 

CSU President Joyce McConnell held two virtual budget town halls, on June 26 and June 29, to address student, faculty and staff concerns over the budget for fiscal year 2021, which begins Wednesday. 


The Monday meeting occurred over Zoom amid protests demanding the defunding of the CSU Police department, after #NotProudToBe, a student group that advocates for racial justice on campus, posted a call to attend the meeting to Instagram.

Key points in the budget include million-dollar revenue losses, heavily decreased state support and additional expenses procured from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Support given to CSU by the state of Colorado will be down by $87,171,889, according to a bar graph presented by McConnell at the town hall. This is a 58% cut in the state appropriation and means the University is operating on 5% state support, down from FY20’s 11%, McConnell said.

Bar graphs of the CSU budget
Bar graphs presented during the virtual town hall hosted by Joyce McConnell and other campus leadership showing the COVID-19 impact on Colorado State University revenue sources. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

“We need to identify new, recurring funding sources, primarily through tuition revenue,” McConnell said. “We don’t expect state support to come back to its previous level, at least not for a few years.” 

McConnell said the University also anticipates a 7-8% drop in revenue generated from tuition and fees, and the cuts made to the base budget are permanent.

According to McConnell’s budget presentation, CSU’s net revenue will come from a $17 million cut in the general fund, $8.8 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, $79 million from the state CARES Act and $20 million from the CSU System Board of Governors’ reserves. 

The FY21 budget also has several one-time expenses related to the University’s COVID-19 response. 

“In our additional expense category it’s costing us a lot of money to be able to manage the COVID-19 response,” McConnell said. “It includes $2.1 million per additional teaching cost due to social distancing requirements (and) about $3 million for testing, tracing and quarantining.”

This will also include one-time expenditures of $188,000 for FY21 and $120,000 for FY22 designated for remote classroom set-up and maintenance, McConnell said. 


McConnell said all classified staff will be safe from furloughs for FY21 and adamantly agreed with a public comment that the University would look to reduce salaries or place salary caps on personnel in different departments before furloughing any employees. 

CSU professor and co-chair of Student Affairs in Higher Education D-L Stewart wrote in an email to The Collegian that, as they listen to the budget priorities, they do not hear a direct acknowledgement of the relationship between program stability and instructional models designed by those programs. 

“The ability to offer courses required for program completion, and therefore the stability of our program, means that there needs to be a stated commitment and aligned decision-making that supports the hiring and retention of faculty across instructional classes (e.g., full-time tenure stream and non tenure stream, admin pro, and adjuncts),” Stewart wrote. 

Although the budget town hall did not address specific department budgets, McConnell acknowledged the protest taking place during the town hall that asked for the defunding of the CSU Police Department. 

We need to identify new, recurring funding sources, primarily through tuition revenue. We don’t expect state support to come back to its previous level, at least not for a few years.” -CSU President Joyce McConnell

“I see your clear calls in Zoom, both on your screen and in the chat, to defund CSUPD, and I share your sense of urgency to truly rethink and (recommit) to what makes us all feel safe and valued in our community,” McConnell said. 

McConnell added that the University has invested more than $82 million in equity and diversity on campus since 2015. 

“Our diversity program totals $11.1 (million), inclusion and staff investments $1.2 million, staff training $3.4 million, student-focused initiatives $26.1 (million) and the cultural centers and Title IV diversity is $4.1 million,” McConnell said. “And this actually is a 43% increase over six years.”

On enrollment, McConnell said Colorado resident numbers are still looking very good and non-residents from around the United States are down by about 5-7%. However, international enrollment is taking a big hit due to the pandemic. 

“We’re working very hard to actually recruit but also to be able to offer our programming online for our international students so that they will not fall behind, and then, when they arrive on campus, we’ll have them fully integrated,” McConnell said.

Susan James, a mechanical engineering professor, said that, while it is good the University is not making cuts to faculty or salaries, the uncertain future of the next few years — especially with low enrollment — makes her wonder if the University will be able to continue doing all that it does for education. 

Ph.D. student Jim Fountain said that many of his concerns relate to the quality of education students will receive in online and hybrid formats. Fountain said he is grateful to the University for their emphasis on the safety and security of students returning to campus but would like to see more on course delivery issues.

“We’re also concerned with the quality of the delivery of the classroom product because if we’re going to be online, or we’re going to be a hybrid situation where we go some days on campus and some days online, we have to assume that the thousands of dollars we’re paying for tuition is worthwhile,” Fountain said.

Both McConnell and town hall moderator Marc Barker said that more opportunities to share concerns related to issues other than the budget would be announced in the coming days.

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.