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UM System sees financial health despite lower state funding, curators say

Friday, September 13, 2013 | 7:15 p.m. CDT
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton speaks during a panel discussion Friday at the University of Missouri System Board of Curators meeting.

COLUMBIA — Revenue and recruitment motivated discussion Friday during the second half of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators' fall meeting in MU's Memorial Union.

"Funding levels right now for higher education are at 2001 levels," UM System President Tim Wolfe said during his report.

Wolfe said some people have questioned whether there is a disconnect between Missouri's stated priorities for education and how it is funding them.

"It is imperative that we initiate a conversation on the state's priorities," Wolfe said. "It needs to happen as soon as possible."

Despite receiving less state funding, the system is financially healthy, board Chairman Wayne Goode said.

"The UM System ended the fiscal year with net total assets of $4.3 billion, an increase of $218 million," Goode said. "In spite of flat funding from the state, we continue to grow and strengthen our position."

Wolfe said the legislature's sustaining the veto of House Bill 253 helped the system's finances. The bill would have cut taxes that fund such services as education. Wolfe said the system would have had to raise tuition by 8 percent to 16 percent to make up for the lost funding.

"The percentage of our out-of-state students is increasing," he said. "The tuition paid by out-of-state is greater than what is in state, which is one of the elements in terms of driving toward the net tuition for each student going up year after year."

Curator David Bradley, who represents St. Joseph, said he read that Florida was experimenting with funding higher-education institutions based on the performance of their graduating students, judged by factors such as whether the graduates were employed and how much they earned. He asked the system's four chancellors what they thought of the idea.

Chancellor Cheryl Schrader of Missouri University of Science and Technology said that she thinks students' graduation success will increasingly become a part of evaluating institutions' performance but that there aren't enough data yet to measure it.

"It's one of the five components on the Department of Education's scorecard. That is the only piece of that scorecard that is yet unpopulated with data," Schrader said. "Right now there doesn't appear to be a good way of capturing that. I think we are going to be having those conversation nationally and here so we can demonstrate what the value is of a college education and that funding isn’t always in dollars."

Speaking for MU, Chancellor Brady Deaton said that the idea worked conceptually but that he had concerns with its implementation.

"You run real risks when imposing enormous risks at very little gain," Deaton said. "I’m always cautious of any imposition that requires a lot of cost to count what might be really obvious. Knowledge is intergenerational. There are a lot of people that go through the university and aren’t looking for a job."

Student recruitment

Enrollment across the system was relatively flat, with the exception of Missouri S&T, according to reports delivered by both of the chancellors.

"We are up significantly in all enrollment categories," Schrader said of Missouri S&T. "We have for the first time exceeded enrollment of 8,000."

MU recently rolled out a new scholarship and increased the value of others in hopes of adding at least 350 students per year, Deaton said. He also said he wants to focus on MU's efforts to enroll more students from within the Southeastern Conference area and increase overall out-of-state enrollment.

"We're going to continue to grow enrollment in support of our strategic plan," Deaton said.

Faculty recruitment and retention

Salaries continue to be lower at MU than at other leading public research universities, Deaton said.

"We have been at the bottom or are next to the bottom among the 34 public AAU universities" in terms of faculty salaries, he said.

Deaton said that MU has internally reallocated funds to keep faculty from being snatched from other Association of American Universities and that performance-based funding would likely increase.

"We want to reward productivity and achievement," he said. "That doesn’t mean we raise salaries across the board."

In other business, the curators:

  • Heard a report by Hank Foley, UM System's executive vice president for academic affairs, who called upon the system to adapt to changing times by using "communivation," a concept that emphasizes fusing community with innovation. He hopes the system will forge partnerships among academic institutions and entrepreneurs within the community to develop research opportunities and growth in Missouri.
  • Discussed the system's policy on intellectual property. Foley said that universities often participate in large negotiations for intellectual property claims, trying to gain ownership, and that it would be worthwhile to start thinking of intellectual properties as things universities don't necessarily have to own to benefit from. "Are we going to start out insisting that we own all (intellectual property), or are we going to start out with an open mind?" he said. Transitioning from one view to the other is "a huge culture change," Foley said.
  • Heard reports by each chancellor on each school's fall enrollment, future expectations and current innovations and how fall classes relate to each institution's strategy.
  • Recognized the University of Missouri-Kansas City for celebrating its 80th anniversary since its founding and its 50th since joining the UM System.

  • Recognized Deaton for his 24 years of service at MU, including as teacher, chief of staff, deputy chancellor, provost and chancellor. After Deaton retires as chancellor on Nov. 15, he will lead the Brady and Anne Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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Comments

Ellis Smith September 14, 2013 | 1:24 a.m.

Change the name (2008) from "University of Missouri-Rolla" to "Missouri University of Science & Technology" and you are deluged with inquiries from high school students, both in Missouri and around the country.

The problem is: Where will we put them?

We now turn away qualified students. Direct them to Engineering at MU? We do, but MU only offers some of the Engineering majors at MS&T; MS&T offers the largest number of Engineering majors in the United States. How many Misourians are aware of that?

In the future a Missouri high school graduate with good but not spectacular grades, wishing to major in certain MS&T programs, could be forced to enroll out of state - or else give up on pursuing that major.

Nobody plans to fail; unfortunately there are those who fail to plan.

[Note: The exchange of remarks by chancellors Brady and Schrader concerning graduation success as a metric suggests that Schrader, like Thomas and Carney before her, will be active in presenting ideas to the Curators.]

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