ST. LOUIS — Money is the name of the game for the UM System Board of Curators.
At the board's December meeting at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, curators spent nearly all of Thursday afternoon and Friday morning discussing system finances and the threat of continued drops in state funding for higher education.
"The issue of where new revenues come from is the challenge of this time, and I think it's what we've really got to focus on," board Chairman Warren Erdman said.
During a Thursday finance committee presentation, Nikki Krawitz, UM System vice president of finance and administration, talked about the system's financial planning and the effects of declining state funding.
"From a pessimistic perspective, each of our campuses is looking at a potential for a decrease in state funding and support," Krawitz said Thursday.
During a chancellor's panel about changing times in higher education Friday morning, Leo Morton, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said that when he meets with legislators next week, he wants to emphasize that legislators in Jefferson City are investors in higher education, too.
Morton said that even in his own office, visiting legislators have told him there is a disconnect between college graduates and jobs in Missouri. He said he wants the system to focus on how it markets the value of higher education to its investors, including private donors and legislators.
Morton and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton emphasized that private donors should not be supplementing state funding but providing additional resources for programs to get to the next level. Deaton said several donors he has spoken with have said they will not continue to give to MU if state support keeps dwindling, specifically because they don't want their money filling a funding gap created by the state.
"That's something I think we all know we have to focus on; the 'other revenues' piece of the pie is going to have to grow," curator Don Downing said Thursday. "I think all of us are going to have to focus on more creative ways to increase revenue."
Thursday the board discussed a proposal to raise the 2012-13 tuition at three UM campuses — MU, UMKC and UMSL — at the rate of inflation, which is estimated to be about 3 percent.
The Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla proposed an increase at the rate of inflation plus an additional 2 percent increase to provide more funding for need-based scholarships.
The proposal includes increases in some course fees with an average increase of $7.25 in 10 fee increases across the four system campuses.
However, curators could approve an increase above the rate of inflation depending on the amount of state appropriations for higher education in the governor's next budget, Steve Owens, interim president for the UM System, said Friday.
The board only discussed tuition increases at its meeting in St. Louis but will vote on finalized proposals at its February board meeting at in Kansas City.
Also on Friday, the board moved to elect a new chairman to succeed Warren Erdman, whose term expires Dec. 31.
The board unanimously voted to elect current vice chairman David Bradley to become the 2012 chairman and unanimously elected curator Wayne Goodeto succeed Bradley as vice chairman for 2012. Board chair and vice chair positions are one-year terms.
In his remarks Friday morning, Bradley thanked Erdman for working through what Bradley called one of the most tumultuous years the curators have had — including the resignation of former system President Gary Forsee, the hire of MU men's basketball coach Frank Haith and the approval of a move for MU to join the Southeastern Conference.
"That said, it's been a great year," Erdman said. "In spite of all of those unforeseen challenges, I really feel good about the year and what (the curators) were able to do as a team."