The Metropolitan State University of Denver trustees began their March 18 board meeting by unanimously approving a resolution to support a Colorado bill that would establish Juneteenth as a state holiday.

Russell Noles, the first Black chair of MSU Denver’s Board of Trustees, provided context on Juneteenth (June 19), which celebrates the end of U.S. slavery in 1865 and became a federal holiday in 2021.

“This holiday has been celebrated in Black communities for years, and Denver has one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country,” he said. “So this is a holiday that’s been around for a long, long time.”

Russell Noles headshot

“This holiday has been celebrated in Black communities for years, and Denver has one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country,” he said. “So this is a holiday that’s been around for a long, long time.”

The resolution provides the following reasoning for supporting Senate Bill 139, which Gov. Jared Polis has endorsed and the Colorado Senate passed Monday and sent to the House.

“WHEREAS, the Metropolitan State University of Denver (‘MSU Denver’) Board of Trustees desires to affirm its commitment to MSU Denver’s diverse student population as the University that educates the largest number of Black students in Colorado; and

“WHEREAS, MSU Denver’s Board of Trustees stands with our students in calling for the freedom, achievement and history of the Black community to be celebrated; and

“WHEREAS, Juneteenth National Independence Day, commonly known as Juneteenth, officially became the 11th federal holiday on June 17, 2021, and the first holiday to be added to the list of federal holidays since the recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday in 1983; and

“WHEREAS, the Juneteenth holiday honors the end to slavery in the United States. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, Juneteenth remains largely unknown to most Americans. In collaboration with many of our student advocates and community members, MSU Denver promotes and supports recognizing this date as Colorado’s 11th official state holiday.” 

Tuition structure

George Middlemist, associate vice president for Administration/CFO, led a discussion of possible changes coming to MSU Denver’s tuition structure in 2023. University leaders have discussed a tuition lock, which would keep tuition rates flat for incoming students long-term instead of being subject to possible increases, if students meet specific criteria.

George Middlemist, Ph.D., associate vice-president of Administration/CFO.

“The advantage of having a tuition-lock program is it helps maintain affordability,” Middlemist said. “Students are able to plan better, and also our Financial Aid Office is able to have aid packages offered to students way earlier.”

MSU Denver is studying a six-year tuition lock for first-time-to-college students and exploring options for transfer students, whom most universities don’t include in their tuition-lock programs.

The University is also looking into offering differential tuition, which would assign varying tuition rates based on different academic programs that cost more to offer, such as those with expensive labs or equipment required.

“This is a great opportunity to incentivize growth programs and offset the cost of some programs,” Middlemist said. “The challenge is to be mindful of the students we serve — we don’t want to create a financial obstacle for students wishing to pursue degrees in higher-cost programs.”

MSU Denver will analyze data over the next few months and gauge feedback from legislators this year before presenting a recommendation on tuition-structure changes to the board next January. If approved by the board and subsequently the Colorado legislature, the changes would take effect in fall 2023.

  • Middlemist also presented the board with a plan to modernize MSU Denver’s budget process, which would make the process more strategic and incentive-based and engage trustees earlier in decision-making.
  • Members of the Joint Budget Committee were still working to finalize the draft of the state budget, which will include funding for institutions of higher education and individual capital projects. Trustee Marissa Molina noted that the 2022 legislative session is halfway over with “90% of the work left,” as much of the first half has been focused on the budget and a collective-bargaining bill that has yet to be introduced.
  • Trustee Mario Carrera was recognized for his hiring as president and CEO of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization.
  • Trustee Mike Kopp has been appointed as a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army. Kopp is a former U.S. Army Ranger. Colorado has two civilian aides to the Army secretary — the other is Bill Hanzlik, a former MSU Denver trustee.
  • President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., announced the spring Commencement speakers: former MSU Denver administrator Yolanda Ortega and state Rep. Leslie Herod. Former trustee Rob Cohen will be honored with the Marathon Award.
  • The trustees paid tribute to Ron Miles, the MSU Denver musician-in-residence who died this month.