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Despite current budget shortfalls, future may be bright

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Last fall, CSU-Pueblo had a sharp drop in enrollment compared with previous years. CSU-Pueblo draws nearly 80 percent of its funds from tuition and fees, so a drop in enrollment was the cause for the budget shortfall. File photo.

Although last year Colorado State University-Pueblo had some difficulties with the budget, the financial course for the future may be brighter.

Last fall, CSU-Pueblo had a sharp drop in enrollment compared with previous years. CSU-Pueblo draws nearly 80 percent of its funds from tuition and fees, so a drop in enrollment was the cause for the budget shortfall.

In fall semester of 2011, full-time students enrolled at the university numbered 5,230, compared with only 4,800 full-time students registered in the fall semester of 2012.

This decrease in enrollment caused a substantial budget shortfall, which had to be dealt with in fiscal year 2012.

The decrease in enrollment is a nationwide trend, with college enrollment falling by half a million students across the country, according to data from the U. S. Census Bureau.

This decrease in enrollment at CSU-Pueblo caused management to quickly rethink the budgeting strategy for the year.

“One thing CSU-Pueblo has committed to for this year is not to raise tuition or mandatory fees for students, so the money had to come from somewhere else,” said Martin Hanifin, vice president for finance and administration at CSU-Pueblo.

In the fiscal year 2013, the original budget plan for the university estimated planned spending at $50 million, but in response to lower enrollment, the available resources totaled only $45 million.

CSU-Pueblo successfully slashed $5 million from its spending for the year by cutting operating costs such as utility bills and by choosing not to immediately fill some positions that were open, according to Hanifin.

“When there was a vacancy, the university had to decide whether to fill it or not, whether to recruit, delay or suspend that position until the budget’s future became more clear,” Hanifin said.

Departments from all areas of campus were affected.

“We couldn’t have done it without the active support and involvement of the entire campus,” Hanifin said. “It’s that same spirit that we want to bring to fiscal year ’14.”

Although spending from the general fund was greater than the university’s available resources in 2012, the university received approximately $2 million from the Colorado State University System, which includes CSU in Fort Collins, CSU-Global Campus and CSU-Pueblo, so there was no deficit in the end.

For the fiscal year of 2014, however, management at CSU-Pueblo expects resources to equal planned spending.

According to Hanifin, it is difficult to gauge what the budget will look like by the end of the year because of unexpected issues such as rising costs of operating expenses like electricity, or fluctuations in enrollment. All of these factors are capable of changing the way the budget looks from the beginning of the year to the end.

“The university did a wonderful job in holding back spending to make sure resources matched spending. If we need to do that again, we’ll do that again,” Hanifin said.

For 2013, though only a few weeks into the semester, all is going as planned with the budget.

In her 2013 State of the University Address, CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare said that, although there is a 3 percent decrease in full time enrollment for fall semester 2013, it was within the margin of the enrollment decline expectations.

Even with a drop in enrollment, the university is bringing in more revenue because of a 10 percent increase in international students and a 6 percent increase in graduate students, both of which bring in more revenue than other types of students, according to Di Mare.

“Simple headcount is not everything, but it cannot be ignored,” Di Mare said.

Hanifin remains optimistic about the budget for 2014. There is a new active enrollment marketing plan, with more targeted enrollment of students, so he expects to see improvements in enrollment in the fall semester of 2014.

“I think this campus can reach a much stronger enrollment once the program starts,” Hanifin said.