Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misreported the amount of state funding versus tuition revenue that the University of Colorado Boulder received in 2007. According to the CU Office of Budget and Fiscal Planning, 8% of the school's budget came from the state. The story has been corrected.

Colleges nationwide, including the University of Colorado Boulder, are increasingly relying on tuition revenue to fund their budgets as state funding crawls back to its pre-recession rate.

The State Higher Education Finance report for financial year 2018, released on Tuesday, details the long-lasting effects of the national trend that still haunts schools a decade after the Great Recession.

The forced shift in funding has been the primary driver of tuition increases across Colorado, according to Todd Saliman, vice president and chief financial officer at the University of Colorado system.

"CU receives 50% less per resident student today than we did in 2000," he said. "It will take a long time to get back to where we were."

An extreme example

Currently, only 4.5% of CU Boulder's budget comes from state funding, according to a statement from Kelly Fox, the university's senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer.

No one from CU Boulder was available for an interview on Tuesday.


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In an emailed statement, Fox said: "Despite these challenges in state funding, we are committed to student success and have pursued a variety of strategies to create affordability and access for students, including the elimination of course and program fees, guaranteed tuition and mandatory fees, and increased investments to need and merit-based aid."

CU Boulder also is reviewing its efficiencies and searching for new revenue streams through its Financial Futures strategic project.

In financial year 2007, before the recession, CU Boulder received 8% of its revenue from state funding, according to an analysis of budget data.

Sophia Laderman, senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, which publishes the annual higher ed finance report, said CU Boulder's heavy reliance on tuition skewed the state's overall data.

While many institutions with lower tuition were forced to increase rates to compensate for drops in state funding, Laderman said CU Boulder enrolled a greater percentage of out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition rates.

Low in nationwide rankings

Colorado has increased funding for higher education in recent years, but it has been ranked 46th or 48th in the nation for appropriations for much longer, Fox said.

In financial year 2017, it also was the fourth worst in the country for higher education support per capita, according to the report. Educational appropriations per full-time student increased by 31.5% from financial year 2013 to 2018, but are still 11.1% less than they were in financial year 2008.

Nationally, state and local support for higher education has decreased by 11.2% since 2008.

Because of the decrease in state funding, Colorado schools are increasingly reliant on tuition dollars. Over the past five years, the net tuition revenue per full-time student increased 22.9%,more than twice the national average. Since the recession, it has increased by 63.3%, compared to a national increase of 38.6%.

While state tax revenues have recovered from the Great Recession, Laderman said higher education allocation has not.

Laderman, who is based in Boulder, believes the state is trying to rectify this disparity in the coming years as more people push for affordability, but said the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, limits the state's ability to collect taxes. (TABOR requires that any tax increase be approved by voters.)

As with other states, Colorado has categories that require mandatory funding, and higher education often ends up with what's left over.

"There honestly just isn't a lot of money available," she said.

Slowly turning the tide

While the data for the CU system is not as extreme as it is for CU Boulder, it has still seen the worst decreases compared to other universities and university systems across the state.

Since financial year 2001, state funding per full-time student for the CU system has decreased by nearly 53% from $10,811 to $5,107, according to data on its website. Statewide, the decrease was an average of 34.1%.

In line with other public systems, the CU system has turned to tuition revenue to help fill in the holes, according to its data.

In financial year 2007, right before the recession, 55.8% of revenue came from tuition, while 44.2% came from state funding. In financial year 2018, 71% of revenue came from tuition, and 29% from state funding.

The state is taking small steps to fix the situation. The Legislature is expected to pass a 13% increase to higher education funding in its budget, on the condition that schools keep tuition flat, which the CU system Board of Regents voted to do on Friday. But that bump in funding still won't cover the CU system's increase in costs.

Saliman said they are grateful for the increased funding that the CU system has received over the past few years, but it will take more time to fix the problem.

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, mstamour@prairiemountainmedia.com