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TODAY'S QUESTION: What can higher education institutions do to make up for budget shortfalls?

Friday, February 5, 2010 | 8:49 a.m. CST; updated 11:37 a.m. CST, Friday, February 5, 2010

Missouri Higher Education Commissioner Robert Stein said in a recent letter to campus chancellors and presidents that higher education is facing reduced funding for the future due to the state's fiscal situation.

Gov. Jay Nixon reached a tentative deal with the presidents of public four-year institutions that would cut $40 million from higher education appropriations next year while preserving 95 percent of funding. This deal is pending approval by Missouri's legislature.

Stein wrote, "It's hard to imagine with shortfalls of this magnitude that higher education funding can be protected, much less increased, even by officials who are champions for higher education."

Stein presented ideas from education and government leaders for potential savings:

  •  One or more institutions could be closed.
  • One or more institutions could be made branch campuses of other institutions.
  • One or more institutions could be privatized by simply removing the state funding and restructuring internally.
  • Students who receive state financial aid and do not graduate could be required to repay their aid awards.
  • Institutions could lower their discount rate and thus collect more of the tuition that is charged.
  • An increased portion of benefits costs could be shifted to employees.
  • Class sizes could be increased, and a minimum class size could be instituted.
  • All athletic programs could be eliminated.
  • Faculty workloads could be uniformly increased so as to allow for a reduction in the number of faculty.
  • Various administrative and support functions, such as purchasing and IT, could be consolidated if they haven’t been already.
  • Some services or support functions could be subcontracted among institutions when capacity is available.
  • Breadth of some program offerings could be reduced where it would correspondingly reduce personnel costs.

What is your reaction to the ideas for potential savings? What else can higher education institutions do to make up for funding shortfalls?


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