A subcommittee of the UM System Board of Curators revisited the repercussions of COVID-19 on the system's investment performance and financial status Tuesday.

“As I work with all four of our universities, I don't think there's any one of them that would say they're not feeling significant pressure from the financial realities we face,” Ryan Rapp, the system's chief financial officer, told members of the Finance Committee.

They met remotely in advance of a full board meeting Sept. 24 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Rapp presented the preliminary fiscal year 2020 financial status report. A final report will be presented to the board later this year.

The key to success once the pandemic ends, he said, is for each campus to increase enrollment and revenues from tuition, philanthropy and research.

Rapp recognized the continuing impact of COVID-19 on this fiscal year. “We know we will be facing difficult choices in terms of personnel action,” he said.

The FY 2020 Financial Status Report document included a table that summarized staffing actions system-wide related to the pandemic:

  • Vacancies eliminated: 720
  • Layoffs: 368
  • Short-term furloughs: 3,719
  • Long-term furlough: 416
  • Temporary pay decreases: 4,200

According to the document, the system will continue to evaluate and adjust its workforce size to respond to the pandemic. Rapp said personnel and other actions that had been temporary may need to become permanent to address the system's financial situation going forward.

In response to Rapp's presentation, the group talked about how the personnel cuts and other actions affected faculty and staff. They cited the need to keep up morale, minimize stress whenever possible and recognize the work put in by faculty and staff.

Earlier, UM Chief Investment Officer Tom Richards offered an overview of the system's investment performance in the 2020 fiscal year, which ended June 30. He explained the impact of COVID-19 on the UM system's three investment pools: the retirement, endowment and general pools. Richards noted the need for further conversations about the levels of investment risk the system is comfortable handling.

The Finance Committee ended by looking at potential changes to the system's financial policies and governance structure. Members considered moving toward a model in which each campus sets its tuition rates, within state restrictions and subject to board approval.

Committee members also discussed how to best allocate state resources to each campus and how that would affect financial accountability. They cited the need for fairness as well as not being overly limited by historical approaches in the face of present realities.

This was only an initial discussion on financial policies and governance structure. Rapp said it will be raised at future board meetings.

  • Education reporter, fall 2020. I am a first year graduate student studying magazine writing journalism. Reach me at hgallant@mail.missouri.edu or on Twitter @GallantHannah.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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