Budget Update -- Mr. Jason Schrock, CDHE, provided an update on the state budget situation pertaining to higher education. The budget situation has changed substantially over the past few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The March revenue forecast from the legislature showed approximately $800 million in less revenue for the General Fund budget for FY 2020-21, and the revenue picture is likely to deteriorate with the next forecast. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) will have to reverse much of the spending increases it had initially approved for the budget, including the seven percent increase in state funding for higher education institutions. However, the federal stimulus package being adopted by Congress will provide material budgetary relief for the state. It is unclear when the legislature will convene again and adopt the FY 2020-21 Long Bill.
Impacts of COVID-19 on Institutions -- Mr. Jason Schrock, CDHE, discussed the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s higher education institutions. The state’s institutions are grappling with significant challenges as they have had to move students to remote instruction, shut down their campuses, and cancel activities. The largest immediate financial impact is the cost of refunding and crediting students for their room and board. The institutions are also facing major financial impacts and costs in the near term from transitioning to remote instruction, refunding various fees, closing facilities (e.g., parking, health and recreation centers, etc.), and continuing to pay hourly and student employees despite the campus shutdowns. These immediate, near term financial impacts (i.e., the 2020 spring semester) are estimated to amount to approximately $190 million for the state’s institutions. The longer term financial impacts of the pandemic (summer and fall term and beyond) are more uncertain but also potentially substantial. Institutions are worried about lower enrollment and tuition revenue going forward, as well as a potential drop in state funding. We will learn more about the financial picture in the coming months. It will depend on the state budget that is ultimately enacted as well as the length and severity of the pandemic.
State Financial Aid Allocations -- Ms. Emily Burns, CDHE, provided updated information regarding both the undergraduate need-based aid allocation methodology as well as the broader total state financial aid allocations, given the new realities the state is facing in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic and ensuing economic slowdown. Staff explained the impact this will have on the undergraduate need-based aid allocation scenarios and the potential impact on the broader total allocations. Staff recommended the Commission adopt a principled approach to both the undergraduate need-based aid allocation as well as the total allocation. In the event of a cut, staff recommended that the Merit and CTE aid lines be reduced in order to protect the undergraduate and workstudy allocations. In response to commissioner questions, staff explained the difference between the undergraduate and graduate need-based aid allocation formulas. Staff also reiterated the importance of guardrails in the undergraduate need-based aid allocation methodology, given the need for some stability in year-to-year allocations while highlighting the differences in the guardrail scenarios presently being considered relative to the guardrail scenarios presented at the March Commission and Committee meetings.