KANSAS CITY — Doing more with less: That was the main subject of discussion of the UM System Board of Curators during its meeting Thursday and Friday.
UM System President Gary Forsee said that with the enactment of Missouri Senate Bill 389, a law that prevents Missouri's public universities from raising tuition more than the inflation rate each year, curators and the Missouri Department of Higher Education are looking for ways to increase efficiency.
Forsee noted the "constant balance" the four-campus board must attempt to reach in trying to build programs and offer new facilities while "understanding full well the mission we have to our state and that our students and parents have an affordable path to achieve that."
Higher enrollment — like the 6 percent overall increase at MU this year — brings added revenue, Forsee said. And that allows the university to hire more faculty and build more campus housing.
With tight economic times, state universities' focus must still be on finding ways to collaborate and share resources if they are to continue to be an "economic engine" for growth and jobs.
During committee meetings Thursday, the curators received good news in reports from the campuses about enrollment:
- Total enrollment at MU for the 2008-09 school year is estimated at 29,761, compared to 28,070 last year.
- Total enrollment at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla jumped to 6,325 from 6,167 over the same period.
- Enrollment was up 3.8 percent at the Kansas City campus, with a total of 12,328 undergraduate and graduate students this year.
Figures from the University of Missouri-St. Louis were unavailable at Friday's meeting. UMSL showed an enrollment of 15,543 in 2007-08.
Financial aid increases
According to a report to the board's Academic and Student Affairs Committee, financial aid payments are also up.
The report showed a 38 percent increase in federal, state, institutional and private financial assistance over the past five years in the form of grants, scholarships, work study or loans. That brings the aggregated total to more than $615 million.
Faculty pay stagnant
According to a report by the Association of American Universities, MU ranked 33 out of 34 member universities in growth of faculty salaries.
In response to the report, curators committed $21 million for salary increases for ranked faculty and administrators over a three-year period.
Curators committed $7 million of that amount this year "without additional funds from the state," Forsee noted.
"We cannot afford to have our best faculty cherry-picked away from us," said Warren Erdman, Compensation and Human Resources Committee chairman, to the curators during Friday morning's open session.
In other matters:
- Forsee issued a statement during Friday's open session that the UM System does not support a campaign by some college presidents to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 to discourage binge drinking. The system's opposition to the idea stems from "reasons having to do with the health and safety of our students," Forsee said.
- The board unanimously approved a resolution recognizing the efforts of MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, Athletic Director Mike Alden and university professors in fostering the "significant academic accomplishments of its student athletes." According to Deaton, each of MU's 20 sports teams met or exceeded all academic progress rate standards set by the NCAA, and MU led the Big 12 Conference in receipt of NCAA public recognition awards.
- Forsee talked about the future of the Missourian, the daily newspaper and Web site affiliated with the School of Journalism, and its ongoing talks with potential partners. He said he couldn't speak for Dean Mills, dean of the journalism school, or other MU officials, but he added, "That is one of the icons of the university. That is an important role that print media plays in providing the best journalism school in the world, and I'm sure that the stewards of that important resource ... will find ways to continue to invent and reinvent along the way the financial means necessary to support that."
- The chancellors highlighted new facilities on their campuses. Deaton talked about the official opening next week of the School of Journalism's new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
The board's next meeting will be Oct. 23 and 24 at MU.