UM Curators approve budget, extend Forsee's contract

Friday, June 6, 2008 | 7:33 p.m. CDT; updated 12:50 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The UM System Board of Curators concluded its June meeting on Friday, highlighted by the extension of President Gary Forsee’s contract, the approval of the fiscal year 2009 operating budget and the creation of a health sciences degree at MU.

Here are some of the actions taken by the curators last week:

Forsee contract

The board approved Forsee’s contract extension from three to five years in a closed session Thursday afternoon. Forsee, who just completed his first 100 days in office, is paid $400,000 annually and $100,000 in performance-based compensation. The extension will defer any payment of the performance-based component of Forsee’s salary for the full five-year term.

“The extension in term is consistent with Mr. Forsee’s desire to make a long-term commitment to the University of Missouri,” board Chairwoman Cheryl Walker said in a prepared statement.

Forsee said he approached Walker with the idea of the extension.

“It became clear to me that if I was only going to be committed for three years, we’d probably have to start another presidential search,” he said. “I thought it was an important statement to make that I’m committed for the long term.”

The curators also approved initial performance objectives for Forsee’s first year as president, including development of a strategic plan for the UM System with emphasis on UM Health Care, focus and evolution of The Missouri 100 as a select advisory group to the president and a recommendation by the end of the year for a “best in class” distance education system.

Fiscal year 2009 operating budget OK’d

After the Finance and Audit committee unanimously approved the $2.5 billion operating budget on Thursday, the entire board did the same on Friday. The budget includes $7.1 million for a competitive compensation program for ranked faculty. Forsee said faculty retention and recruitment is a top priority. He said the university must make a three-year investment in competitive market compensation, totaling $21.6 million, to bring the average salaries of ranked faculty to the levels of comparable research institutions.

“Our salaries aren’t at market medium,” Forsee said. “It’s important to start to close that gap.”

A study of ranked faculty at public institutions of the Association of American Universities — a group of prestigious public and private research institutions — showed that MU ranks last out of 33 public AAU universities in the growth of base faculty salaries and 32 out of 33 when ranked according to the current average base salary, as of 2006.

Originally, the UM System asked the state to share the cost of salary increases, with the state and the system each paying $3.55 million for three years. Funding for faculty compensation was not included in the system’s 2009 state appropriations approved by the Missouri General Assembly. But Forsee said he believed the goal could still be reached.

“This legislative session, we started to change the discussion that higher education needs to be viewed as an investment,” he said.

Bachelor of health science degree created at MU

The board approved the creation of the bachelor’s degree in health science, which was recommended by Steve Graham, the UM System interim vice president for academic affairs. According to the proposal by the MU School of Health Professions, the new degree is a response to “student demand and to the critical allied health professions workforce shortage in Missouri.”

“This is also another way to meet the health needs of our state,” said Judith Haggard, chairwoman of the Academic Affairs Committee. “The goal is for us to create programs that respond to the market need.”

Graham said there is keen student interest in the degree and that it should appeal to many audiences and serve as a retention tool. Departments within the School of Health Professions will collaborate to offer the degree, which would require courses in foundational sciences, human function, health policy and health research and service.

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