In an email communique to the University of Denver community, Chancellor Jeremy Haefner shared Denver’s efforts to work with government officials “however long it takes to recover from the effects of COVID-19.” Prior to the April 20th announcement,$4.6 million of the $12.5 billion pool of funds related to Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act had been allocated to DU. At least half of that will be awarded for emergency financial aid grants to students.
But the reality is, that $4.6 million isn’t enough. So the University of Denver’s push for additional financial support has been directed to federal and state officials. At the federal level, DU has reached out to U.S. Senators Michael Bennett and Cory Gardner of Colorado along with U.S. Rep. Jason Crowe of Colorado’s 6th congressional district. At the state level, with the support of former Mayor Federico Pena, the University has appealed to Gov. Jared Polis for a piece of the $44.25 billion CARES Act funds which may be applied to higher education. There is wide discretion given governors to distribute these funds.
The battle for funds is certain to be challenging as everyone is hurting right now.
DU will be competing with towns, counties, municipalities and other public and private educational institutions for federal funds. DU has issued refunds to students for room and board and for student activity fees. However, tuition, which averages $50,000 a year for undergrads, remains unchanged as of this writing. A Change.org petition initiated by DU students is asking the University of Denver administration for financial relief with classes moved online. The petition had garnered over 1,300 signatures but DU remains highly dependent on student tuition for continued operations. And the future of classes held on campus this summer and fall remains in doubt.
According to The Denver Post, CU took a $44 million hit from refunding impacted students’ housing and dining costs and paying hourly and student employees throughout the crisis. Colorado State University’s two campuses, the university paid out around $19 million in rebates for students’ housing and dining costs. Fort Lewis College gave back $2.8 million in the spring semester room and board. A 10% loss in 2020-21 state funding to the CU system would amount to a nearly $25 million hit to CU’s four campuses, according to a model presented at a CU Board of Regents meeting last week.
Denver Public Schools (DPS) officials predicted the 92,000-student district could lose from $19 million to $61 million in state funding next year. The district operates on an annual budget of more than $1 billion. Before the coronavirus, the district was projecting revenue would increase 2% next school year. Now, the best-case scenario is that it stays flat, while the worst-case scenario — the one involving a $61 million reduction in state funding — would be a 5% revenue decrease, according to Chalkbeat.
According to Chancellor Haefner, Denver’s appeals will center on “the importance of recognizing the contributions made by higher education on research, knowledge, work-force training, civic engagement, and contributing to our local and state economies. We want to ensure that our mission and contributions are ever-present as the federal government continues to implement and consider federal stimulus plans.”
Photo Courtesy of the University of Denver