UM cost-cutting to help faculty

Salary increases are intended to make UM schools more competitive.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:29 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

In an effort to raise the average faculty salary and increase its competitiveness, the UM System Board of Curators has asked the chancellors at each of the four UM campuses to identify ways to cut costs by 1 percent every year for at least the next five school years.

The savings, which would go toward salary increases for faculty, are something the curators hope will make the schools more competitive in hiring and retaining.

Operating budget

The general operating budget is made up of funding the university receives from student tuition, fees and state appropriations. Not included are endowments and gifts the university receives for a specific purpose. The general operating budget funds all university operations other than programs such as University Hospital, Residential Life and athletic programs, all of which are self-supporting. This includes faculty and staff salaries, libraries, the university’s extension program and university offices. FY 2007 general operating budgets by campus (revenue):
  • MU: $416,434,899
  • UMKC: $200,267,138
  • UM-Rolla: $88,836,070
  • UM-St. Louis: $123,904,840
  • UM Extension: $38,358,966
  • System Administration: $42,119,594
  • University-wide resources: $7,235,253

The plan came out of an April 6 meeting of the Board of Curators in Rolla, when it passed a motion calling for an “efficiencies account” equal to 1 percent of the university’s general operating budget “for contribution to and funding of the University’s compensation package in the coming fiscal year.”

At MU, that will mean about a $4.2 million reduction in spending starting July 1. Only areas funded by the general operating budget — such as teaching, advising, admissions and facilities — would be affected.

Reductions could be achieved by doing things like consolidating resources, combining offices or offering some classes less frequently.

Rex Campbell, MU Faculty Council chairman, sent an e-mail to faculty Monday asking for creative ideas about how to save money.

“We need your ideas as to how to make significant cost savings at MU,” Campbell wrote. “One rule to keep in mind is that tenure must be honored. Tenured professors cannot be fired unless there is fiscal exigency, and this does not qualify as such. A couple of additional rules are: you cannot eliminate a campus, and you cannot eliminate the system administration.”

Any ideas will be researched by a four-person team that will evaluate their feasibility and costs, said MU Provost Brian Foster. They will also examine whether each idea would have any unintended consequences, he said.

“Hopefully, we’ll find ways to cut spending and add efficiencies that will make the university better,” he said.

Salaries at MU have consistently ranked lower than those at comparable schools. Four out of five associate professors nationwide are paid more than MU’s associate professors, according to a study by the American Association of University Professors. The study also found that 80 percent of assistant professors around the country earn more than those at MU.

In the Big 12 conference, only one school — Kansas State — pays its assistant professors less than MU.

Reallocating 1 percent of the operating budget to salaries will help MU stay competitive when it comes to hiring and retention, Foster said.

“We’re hiring against the University of Texas, or Michigan, or Virginia or whatever,” Foster said. “Beause we’re trying to get the best people, and they are, too. We lose people because we can’t pay them enough, and there’s some people we can’t hire because we can’t pay them enough. It goes both ways.”

Chancellor Brady Deaton and Foster have tasked three committees to start work immediately on identifying places where money could be saved: a 1 Percent Academic Planning Committee, an Administrative Committee and the Strategic Planning and Resources Advisory Committee.

Each committee was created specifically to bring a unique perspective, Foster said. The planning committee will consider where the university wants to go. The administrative committee will try to implement the plan. The academic committee will look at curriculum and learning issues.

“They’re very different perspectives,” Foster said.

There is overlapping membership on the committees to ensure coordination, according to the e-mail Campbell sent Monday.

Each committee has been asked to create both a one-year and a five-year plan for reducing costs.

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