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June 7, 2023
The Board of Trustees has approved an exciting new budget for Metropolitan State University of Denver, highlighted by employee compensation increases and strategic investments that will catalyze our enrollment momentum as we launch the University forward. After charting the course out of the pandemic with the “Recover, Stabilize, LAUNCH!” budget framework in 2021, we are now realizing the early returns of our efforts and building off that hard work.
None of this would have been possible without the tremendous work of the University Planning and Budget Advisory Council, which includes representatives from all academic and administrative branches. As we transition to a strategic budgeting process that is more inclusive and transparent, I charged UPBAC with building on the investments of the past two years to launch the University into new opportunities, with the following priorities for Fiscal Year 2024:
The budget that I presented to and was approved by the board last week largely mirrors UPBAC’s recommendation, beginning with a big investment in that first priority – our people. All faculty members and non-classified professional employees will receive a 4% across-the-board pay raise effective July 1 or on the next faculty contract date.
I also proposed to the board a one-time bonus for every faculty member and non-classified professional employee this fall, should student retention exceed budget projections by enough to cover the additional pay. We will assess retention data later this fall and if it supports such an increase, we will give out lump-sum payments from a pool that could be up to 1% of employee payroll.
Meanwhile, classified employees will receive a 5% pay raise, effective July 1, as approved by the state legislature earlier this year.
MSU Denver will also establish a minimum employee salary of $41,626, which is the minimum living wage for one working adult in Denver, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator for the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro.
These increases will help ensure the University can offer competitive wages that appropriately compensate our highly educated workforce, while supporting our strategic focus on meeting students where they are and retaining them. Beginning this summer, we will conduct a more comprehensive compensation study to inform salary adjustments in next year’s budget.
Tuition, fees and strategic investments
MSU Denver will increase tuition and student fees by 5%, which aligns with increases at other Colorado universities and the parameters set forth by the state legislature. This is necessary to maintain the University mission while fairly compensating employees amid rising costs. Tuition increases will only apply to incoming students; returning students will pay the same tuition rates as they did this year thanks to the Tuition Lock Guarantee implemented in 2022. Additional financial aid programs, such as the Roadrunner Promise, will continue to offer free and reduced tuition to students with the greatest need, in line with our University values.
Retention is the biggest key to launching student success. Smart investments that improve retention will benefit our students and our budget long term. Last year, as we faced a critical inflection point in our enrollment trends, we identified “Stuff That Works” – recruiting and retention initiatives designed to bend our enrollment curve. We’ll continue funding these strategies such as the Roadrunner Promise, concurrent enrollment, Pathways to Possible and other innovative initiatives with more than $5 million this fiscal year as we further evaluate the return on investment that they provide. That analysis will help us determine whether to build these programs into the base budget in future fiscal years.
Meanwhile, this budget dedicates nearly $2 million to support student success in other ways, including up to $1.3 million in funding for the new College of Aerospace, Computing, Engineering and Design. We are also sustaining momentum by allocating funds for diversity programs, government affairs support and important infrastructure improvements.
As part of the process to present a balanced budget, UPBAC worked with all the University branches to reduce base budgets by $8.8 million and planned on an additional $5 million in underspending based on historical budgeting trends. In addition to a potential one-time bonus for employees mentioned above, revenue from better-than-predicted retention could be used to rebuild the University’s reserves, which were partially depleted during the pandemic.
During this transition budget year, we are also preparing budget-neutral guidelines to address faculty capacity and workload. The Faculty Workload Taskforce has made tremendous progress in defining the path forward, including work to begin balancing workloads by reprioritizing departmental budgets. Meanwhile, our new budget model facilitates a more strategic and transparent process, along with multiyear budget planning, that will allow us to evaluate fiscally sound faculty-workload strategies moving forward.
If you want to learn more about this year’s budget or our new budgeting process and annual planning timeline, check out the resources below.
More information is also available on the UPBAC SharePoint site.
I want to thank UPBAC again for its thoughtful work and everyone who provided input that informed the budget recommendations. Leaders leading at all levels of the University make a huge difference in our ability to fulfill our mission. As we strive for more transparent, strategic and decentralized budgeting, please continue to engage in this process and encourage others to do the same. Your expertise and energy make this work better, and together we can launch MSU Denver forward!
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
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