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Forecast shows drop in enrollment, revenue for Colorado higher ed institutions

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s higher education institutions should anticipate fewer students this fiscal year and lower revenue, according to a state forecast.

Colorado’s Legislative Council Staff (LCS), a nonpartisan policy wing of the General Assembly, published a report Tuesday estimating higher education enrollment could drop by 4.8%.

In turn, revenue from tuition is expected to decrease by 4.6% in fiscal year 2020-21 “as the drop in enrollment offsets modest tuition rate increases at some institutions,” according to the report.

LCS admitted their analysis assumes the state economy will continue to recover. The key factors that will determine the breadth of the impact on state school funding are the availability of effective vaccines, and relaxation of public health restrictions, according to the report.

"COVID-19 vaccine distribution provides greater promise for the resumption of a more 'normal' academic year beginning with the fall 2021 semester," the report said.

Many higher education students reported that they either deferred enrollment or took a gap year altogether because of challenges posed by COVID-19. Access to child care, technology, and jobs left many low-income students without access to remote learning as well, according to the report.

Under the federal $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law Thursday, Colorado colleges and universities will receive $495 million aimed at providing aid for in-need students.