At a special meeting of the University of Northern Colorado Board of Trustees, the board announced a plan to decrease the amount of tuition discounts the university gives out. The budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which was unanimously approved, includes a 13.5% decrease in financial aid and scholarships.
The board met Friday, Sept. 25 to discuss changes to the school’s budget prompted by the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, UNC experienced a revenue shortfall of around $24 million. There was also a 10.3% reduction in UNC’s overall student population.
During the 2019-2020 school year, 88% of full-time undergraduate students received some form of tuition discounting. Tuition discounting includes grants, scholarships, and waivers. Loans are considered a form of financial aid, but are not discounting the total tuition a student may be charged.
In past years, tuition has been discounted to encourage enrollment. While enrollment did increase, the cost to the university outweighed the benefits brought in by new students.
Board members criticised the strategy of focusing only on recruitment.
“Like a department store that needed to grow sales, they just kept adding on the discounts,” chairman Dick Monfort said.
President Andy Feinstein argued that discounting tuition for new students decreased the amount of resources available to returning students, and hurt retention.
“As we were driving enrollment, and limiting the net tuition revenue we had, I had grave concerns about being able to support our students,” Feinstein said.
Other board members expressed concern about the effects reducing tuition discounts would have on students and the campus environment. The only areas seeing an increase in funding are athletic scholarships and the UNC Foundation.
Some members were concerned about the impact this decision would have on the campus environment by reducing both merit and need-based scholarships.
Prateek Dutta asked about potential impacts on lower-income students.
“As we reduce the discounting rate, I would like to know,” Dutta asked “for example, the students that are Pell eligible, or families that have lower income, or underrepresented minorities, are we seeing a reduction in those students, too?”
Because of decreased enrollment and other financial impacts caused by the pandemic, UNC is facing reduced revenue and increased expenses.
Board treasurer Michelle Quinn pointed out that students will not see reduced discounting this year.
“We did not reduce merit packages fall ‘19 to fall ‘20,” Quinn said. “The merit packages were the same as they were the prior year, it’s just that the total dollar amount decreased because there are fewer students.”
The special Board of Trustees meeting can be viewed at https://www.unco.edu/trustees/meeting/ and the revised budget plan can be viewed at https://www.unco.edu/trustees/minutes-agendas/fy21_revisedbudget.pdf.