Post Premium: Our best stories for the week of June 29 – July 5

As colleges and universities across Colorado work on plans to bring students back to campus safely this summer, administrators are grappling with potentially crippling budget shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic calamity and the loss of nearly a half-billion dollars in state higher education funding.

It is, to quote the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, a “cacophony of crises.”

In today’s Denver Post, reporter Elizabeth Hernandez takes a closer look at the dire fiscal situation facing the state’s institutions of higher learning, including concerns about enrollment drops as students opt to skip the uncertainty of a fall semester during the pandemic. Schools have been buoyed this year by federal coronavirus stimulus, but those in the state’s higher-ed community worry that the real crisis will hit next year when that funding runs out.

The impacts could be most drastic for Colorado’s least-affluent schools, the community colleges and regional public universities. “The cut in state funding and the loss in tuition revenue would potentially cripple our institutions in Colorado,” says Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System.

— Matt Sebastian, senior editor

From pandemic to recession, a “cacophony of crises” threatens Colorado’s higher-education institutions

Coronavirus pandemic gives Polis unprecedented power

Since his March emergency declaration, Gov. Jared Polis has had sweeping authority to control Colorado’s pandemic response path. He has issued more than 100 executive orders, according to a state tally.

The governor’s empowerment reflects not only the national trend but also that his most potent would-be antagonists in Colorado have mostly stepped aside or concurred with his approach. Although they sometimes clash over policy, Polis and the Democrats who control Colorado’s legislature generally share a common vision, and interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers show generally strong reviews for his pandemic response. Read more from Alex Burness.

RELATED: In first veto of 2020, Polis rejects bill to curb opioid addiction

Apartment developers remain bullish on Denver even as the pandemic batters the economy

When the coronavirus hit, Denver was coming off the biggest years for new apartment construction in its history.

The boom has come during a time in which the city has attracted young, high-paid renters from other parts of the country in droves and condo development in Colorado has been depressed by concerns about developer liability. Now that the decade-long economic expansion that helped fuel the boom has come to an abrupt end thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, apartment developers — in Denver and across the country — find themselves at a crossroads. Read more from Joe Rubino…

RELATED: Metro Denver home sales surge in June as demand outstrips supply

Neither Gardner nor Hickenlooper has lost a race in Colorado; their Senate matchup will change that

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is the most powerful Republican in Colorado, a fast-talking and fast-rising star within his party, a beacon of light for the political right in this increasingly Democratic state.

John Hickenlooper is Colorado’s best-known Democrat, a popular former governor with almost universal name recognition and a quirky persona that has played well in the Centennial State for two decades.

In the next four months, Gardner and Hickenlooper will go blow-for-blow across the state in the electoral equivalent of a heavyweight title fight. Read more about what to expect from Justin Wingerter.

More 2020 election news: Five takeaways from Colorado’s 2020 primary election

Colorado’s unemployment call center likely will never meet COVID-driven demand, as 40,000 calls go unanswered weekly

The customer service line has become a major chokepoint as tens of thousands of people seek help navigating the Colorado unemployment system’s murky waters as well as their own changing personal circumstances — such as furloughs becoming permanent layoffs.

Aaron Whitworth, 31, of Littleton, is among the people who say they have called the state’s customer service line hundreds of times in recent weeks with nothing to show for it. Read more from Joe Rubino.

Aurora police chief fires three officers as part of Elijah McClain photo investigation

Aurora’s interim police chief on Friday fired two officers who posed for a photo re-enacting a chokehold at the site of Elijah McClain’s violent arrest, and she terminated a third officer who received the picture mocking the 23-year-old’s death last summer.

Jason Rosenblatt, the officer who received that photo and a second image, was one of the three officers involved in McClain’s death, but he later was cleared of criminal or departmental wrongdoing. Read more from Sam Tabachnik.

Elijah McClain timeline: What happened that night and what has happened since

+ Colorado’s COVID-19 outbreaks shifting from nursing homes to retail outlets, restaurants

+ COVID threat isn’t over, especially for Coloradans with chronic conditions

+ Colorado Supreme Court upholds state’s ban on large-capacity gun magazines

+ Polis says pardons for marijuana convictions can start in 90 days

+ Denver to create campsites, consider tax hike to help people experiencing homelessness

+ How Colorado schools plan to reopen this fall during the coronavirus pandemic

+ A Sikh business owner was told to “go back your country” before being run over by a car; now the community is demanding justice.

+ Unpredictable House race ahead for western Colorado after Boebert ousts Tipton

+ Colorado nonprofits struggle to stay afloat as pandemic captures funders’ attention, dollars

+ Colorado State expels incoming student over racist social media post

+ This laid-off chef knows coronavirus is hard on families, so he’s giving meals away. — The Know

+ This popular waterfall hike joins the list of Colorado trails being loved to death — The Know Outdoors

See more great photos like this on The Denver Post’s Instagram account.

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