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Tough decisions likely ahead for CSU-Pueblo finances

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Photo by Lilly Smith
CSU-Pueblo is still recovering from the financial crisis that began in 2013. | Photo by Lilly Smith

Amid continued concerns over the future of CSU-Pueblo, and whether the university is actually recovering from the financial crisis that began in 2013, administration officials have indicated the road will be longer still, likely with more tough decisions ahead.

In an email interview, CSU-Pueblo’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Karl Spiecker said that September’s student census data indicated considerably less growth than anticipated. Revenue for the coming 2015-2016 fiscal year is an estimated 7 percent lower than anticipated due to a slower than expected increase in enrollment. Accordingly, the budget for the year has been trimmed by $2.1 million.

Responding to worries about continued decreased funding, the university’s provost, Rick Kreminski, placed some of the responsibility on the state. Colorado ranks 48th in the country for state funding of higher education.

“This is the reality,” Kreminski said. “Tax payers in Colorado either don’t know, or don’t care about this.”

Kreminski did point out that factors contributing to enrollment are becoming less uncertain. As an example, he said that high school dropout rates are expected to bottom out this year.

Both Spiecker and Kreminski agree that, overall, the university is on track for a steady, if slow, recovery but also that CSU-Pueblo is going to have to be creative about making that happen.

Spiecker said that the CSU-Pueblo Foundation has raised nearly $14 million with its “On The Move” campaign, though the “On The Move” website reflects just less than $12.8 million year to date.

Kreminski points to two new grants received by the college. A students and learning grant from the U.S. Department of Education will provide $2.6 million a year over five years to support innovation in instruction, though how the funds will be spent has not yet been determined.

Rick Kreminski | Photo courtesy of csupueblo.edu
Rick Kreminski | Photo courtesy of csupueblo.edu

Another grant from the National Science Foundation will provide few obvious benefits to many students, but will be used to construct a state of the art Internet2 connection that will bring CSU-Pueblo online with the world’s research universities, and hopefully build new learning opportunities for students.

Spiecker also pointed to the growth of the university’s online degree programs, and the addition of six new sports at the campus over the 2014-2015 fiscal year as a contributor to enrollment growth.

This practice of luring students with extracurricular activities has drawn the consternation of some faculty, however. As one professor put it, it shows that the administration’s priorities are entirely focused on revenue, and not enough on academics that benefit more students.

When asked about those concerns, Kreminski called it a “balancing act,” saying “it’s frustrating that we have to focus so much on revenue, but what other option do we have?”

He called the sports that were most recently added “highly cost effective,” meaning that they required very little overhead for a supposed long term pay off. One example he gave was the school’s new track team, which requires almost no specialized equipment for most events.