By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – This week the Colorado Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee has started laying out their plan to cut billions of dollars from the state’s budget. Among the first to see potential reductions are Colorado’s higher education institutions.

“They look first at higher ed because we have an alternative source of revenue tuition, K-12 doesn’t have tuition,”Joe Garcia,  Chancellor of Colorado’s Community College system, said.

Garcia oversees 13 schools with 40 locations across the state.

(credit: CBS)

With the fallout from COVID-19 restrictions, he knew they would lose funding. Now he has a better idea just how much.

“I move a 58% reduction to all higher education boards,” one committee member said at Tuesday’s hearing.

It’s a loss of roughly $500 million — $450 million of which would be replaced with money from the Federal CARES ACT, leaving Colorado’s colleges and universities with about a 5% reduction in state funding.

“For the University of Northern Colorado it’s still significant. It’s about $2.4 million,” University President Andy Feinstein said.

Both he and Garcia say the cuts are only one piece of the puzzle. Another, significantly larger piece will be tuition.

“While the impact from the state is significant, we are also concerned about what our fall enrollment will look like and whether or not we have students in housing,“ he said.

Even with no clear picture on what school may look like in the coming months, many schools have decided against tuition hikes that in a non-COVID-19 year might help fill the funding gap.

“We are trying to train our students to be adaptable and traditionally higher education hasn’t demonstrated that ourselves, now we have to,” Garcia said.

In addition to the cuts, the Joint Budget Committee also put a cap on any potential tuition increases of 3%. Their proposal will now have to go to the full legislature for approval, and then the governor’s desk to be signed.


Karen Morfitt