Budget shortfall projected for MU, even with tuition increase

Saturday, March 19, 2011 | 5:40 p.m. CDT; updated 11:18 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 19, 2011
Despite $29.8 million in revenue increases projected for next year, MU is still expected to have a $21.7 million funding gap in its general operating budget.

COLUMBIA — The UM System Board of Curators will be looking closely at the 2012 budget when it meets Monday in Rolla.

The good news for the UM System: The state approved a tuition waiver that will save MU $13.3 million.

The bad news for the UM System: MU still potentially faces a $21.7 million funding gap.

Even with the 6.5 percent tuition increase at MU, projected numbers show a $21.7 million difference between projected revenue and expenses. Part of that is the result of an anticipated 7 percent cut for higher education institutions in the state budget.

Portions of the MU budget are likely to face additional cuts in an effort to close the gap, said MU Budget Director Tim Rooney.

He said many departments will see smaller budgets and must begin to plan accordingly. Already, MU has cut 19 programs that awarded degrees to a low number of students.

"The departments are going to have to work hard to find the funds within because we don't have the money to give to them," he said.

Certain items will most likely remain intact, the budget director said. These items include the maintenance and repair budget, insurance premiums for buildings and automobiles and the campuses' scholarships budgets — $65 million for scholarships and graduate-fee waivers.

The acquisitions budget for MU libraries does not typically get cut either, he said.

"The faculty, in the past, have said, 'Please don't do that. Cut elsewhere,'" Rooney said.

The $21.7 million figure includes a spending increase for maintenance and repairs, which is recommended, Rooney said.

The total need for maintenance and repairs across the campus equals $511 million, though not all of those needs are dire, said MU spokesman Christian Basi. The university spent about $13 million on maintenance and repairs last year and would spend about $28 million with the increase.

The alternative would be to defer maintenance, which has consequences, Basi said. For example, in January, a sprinkler head froze and broke, causing minor flooding in the glass display in the Anheuser-Busch building.

Interim UM System President Steve Owens and others have made the case to the General Assembly that MU is important to the state.

In presentations before House and Senate appropriations committees last month, Owens highlighted the significant research conducted by faculty and economic benefits the state receives from the university. Budget cuts, he said, threaten the mission of education and research.

The tuition increase was an essential factor in making the budget manageable. After two years without an increase, UM administrators argued that the system could no longer keep the lid on tuition with the looming state cuts.

Any increase greater than the rate of inflation must get approval from the commissioner of the Department of Higher Education. The state granted the waiver last week, and David Russell, Missouri's higher education commissioner, said in a letter the increase was "sufficiently warranted."

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said in a statement he was pleased with the decision.

"Having our tuition and budget set now allows us to focus our efforts on our financial aid packages for our incoming and continuing students," Deaton said.

"We are constantly working to preserve our level of excellence at MU while using our financial resources as effectively and efficiently as possible."

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Ellis Smith March 19, 2011 | 5:52 p.m.

One assumes that shortfalls also exist at the other UM System campuses. If they don't, that would truly be news.

(Report Comment)
Victoria Guida March 20, 2011 | 12:15 p.m.

Mr. Smith — Indeed, there are shortfalls at the other campuses. MU's funding gap makes up roughly half the system's overall gap. We chose to focus on MU both because of its location in Columbia and because it would be more useful in demonstrating the breakdown in the individual budget seen in the infographic.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 20, 2011 | 12:43 p.m.

Thank you. Perhaps I need to label my sarcastic posts as such. That MU's gap represents "roughly half" of the System's funding gap seems very logical, since MU has about 45% of the System's students.

(Report Comment)

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