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Board of Trustees vote unanimously not to raise costs for students

The CMU Board of Trustees voted unanimously not to raise the cost of education at CMU for the 2020-21 academic year. The decision complements the university's recently announced Safe Together, Strong Together Initiative — a science- and health-based planning initiative for returning to campus in the fall.

"What makes Colorado Mesa University an incredible institution is that every single decision made by CMU is based on what is best for our students," said CMU Trustee and Denver Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Brough. "The budget that has been presented to us today, and in particular, the decision not to raise tuition or room and board for the next year, reinforces what I call our 'North Star' principle of always placing students first."

Brough moved to approve the budget and trustee Ron Davis quickly seconded the motion. Davis has a history of supporting low-income and first-generation students through the nonprofit organization that he founded, Guardian Scholars.

CMU Trustee Daniel Ramos complemented the work being done by CMU and expressed appreciation for efforts to keep CMU affordable for students. Ramos was a first-generation college student who has remained active in higher education since serving as a student leader.

"I want to applaud CMU for their creativity and for making tough decisions that maintain the integrity of the university," said Ramos. "I am really excited to vote yes for this budget and make sure we can continue to provide access for our students."

In an email to campus, CMU President Tim Foster said, "The natural impulse for universities facing their own budget difficulties is to raise tuition and fees to cover shortfalls. I asked the trustees to join me in not moving in that direction and am pleased they agreed," wrote Foster. "You might wonder how or why CMU would choose to not raise tuition or fees when eroding economic conditions indicate all institutions will face significant financial challenges in the coming years. The answer to this question is found in the students we serve."

CMU invests efforts to ensure first-generation, low-income and non-traditional students are not only welcomed, but are a large part of the university's focus when it comes to student services. CMU believes a tuition increase this year would be shortsighted because it would impact the very students who may be challenged to return in the fall.

Trustee Alison Griffin, who is a senior vice president for Whiteboard Advisors, spoke on behalf of the proposed budget.

"Mr. Chairman I am looking at this through a national lens," said Griffin. "For decades universities have seen tuition increases as the only way to cover their costs, and students have been bearing that burden for a long time."

Griffin said the students bearing that burden are not just any students but are specifically those who are first-generation and/or low-income, and who come to campus with gifts and talents that enrich CMU.

"This is a difficult and bold decision, but not raising tuition is in the best in interest of our students, and the CMU approach to alternative cost savings could be a model for other institutions in the state or in the region."

Difficult decisions are likely in the months and years ahead for all universities as federal and state support for higher education remains uncertain. CMU plans to modify operations and identify cost savings in the weeks ahead. Foster believes the approved budget acknowledges that despite inevitable saving measures, they must not be implemented at the expense of students at a time when families are experiencing stress and financial constraint.

"The trustees reinforced their role as state-wide leaders today," said Foster. "They understand a quality education has no value if those students we serve can't afford it. I'm glad the trustees took this action even as many others throughout the nation are pressured to increase tuition to fill shortfalls."

Prior to the vote CMU received recognition from national credit ratings agencies like Moody's who confirmed the financial strength of the university. Former Board of Trustee Chair Doug Quimby reinforced the importance of CMU's previous decision as being the reason CMU can avoid raising tuition during the upcoming year, and that past governance has contributed to CMU's financial strength today.

"I've spent a lot of time looking at this budget and these numbers, and this is an extraordinarily good news budget given the times we are in," said Quimby. Quimby echoed previous sentiments that the zero-tuition increase "puts students first."

CMU Board of Trustee Chair David Reed concluded the discussion after the vote.

"We need to be innovative and we need to be agile," said Reed. "Zero increase in tuition and room and board speaks to our duty in that regard."

CMU President Tim Foster will host a virtual meeting with CMU parents on Monday and will continue to engage CMU stakeholders and solicit public feedback on the on the Safe Together, Strong Together planning process.


Written by David Ludlam