A $47.52 million general fund budget that lays off 12 employees and furloughs 11 others was approved Monday by the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees for academic year 2020-21.
The budget is a 2.15% reduction from the $48.56 million budget for the current year and includes no pay raise for faculty or employees.
Budget cutting was necessary because of a drop in state revenues as public health measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 crushed the economy, closing stores, shops, restaurants and offices across the state and country, and lowering tax revenues.
The state general fund took a $3.3 billion drop from last year. For universities and colleges, the Joint Budget Committee of the Colorado General Assembly cut $493 million from higher education. That blow was softened by an available $450 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for higher ed.
“Our faculty, staff and students really felt like they were part of this process. We ran a transparent process that had lots of opportunity for engagement and maintained a positive culture at the college, which is really a testament to just how hard everybody’s working. This could have turned out a lot different with people saying this was wrong, that was wrong, but you know everybody came together,” said FLC President Tom Stritikus after the meeting.
Most important for Stritikus is that resident and nonresident tuition did not increase for 2020-21, protecting the students from budgetary pain felt elsewhere on campus.
Tuition will remain steady at $7,056 for residents and $17,712 for nonresidents for academic year 2020-21.
FLC has written the 2020-21 budget with the assumption that enrollment will decline 7.5% next year.
Many colleges and universities across the country are projecting 10% to 15% declines in enrollment as COVID-19 aftereffects have increased the number of graduating high school seniors who plan to take a gap year before entering college.
Stritikus stressed fundraising continues for the Community Concert Hall, which took cuts in the upcoming budget.
“We continue to try to raise money for the concert hall. We’ve already raised $250,000. And we want to raise $900,000, to make sure that the community is really underwriting the arts in our region and not our students,” he said.
Through difficult budgetary times, Stritikus said, the institution maturely dealt with the grim budgetary reality created by the novel coronavirus.
“We held the culture together and we kept our eyes on where we’re headed, and that’s very difficult to do in situations like this,” he told trustees.