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Nov. 11, 2010 Volume 32, No. 12

Budget forecast prompts ‘proactive’ realignment of MU Extension


Changes will end TeleCenter partnership

In anticipation of cuts in state funding for higher education next year, the University of Missouri has announced a major realignment of MU Extension, including ending the extension’s 15-year partnership with the statewide TeleCenter Network.

The realignment, announced Monday by Chancellor Brady J. Deaton and Provost Brian Foster, will result in the elimination of 19 TeleCenter positions and save the extension about $815,000. 

In a meeting with extension employees that was broadcast via teleconference Tuesday, Michael Ouart, vice provost and director of MU Extension, said there is a “possibility, but no guarantee” that the affected workers will be moved to other positions with MU or the extension. “But we will do everything we can to help them find jobs,” he said.

Ouart said the extension’s role as managing partner of the TeleCenter Network, which was created in 1993 to provide continuing education to teachers and nurses around the state, will end by Nov. 8, 2011. TeleCenters are located in Mexico, Salem, Jefferson City, Nevada, Kirksville, Poplar Bluff, Portageville, Reeds Spring and Mineral Area. More than 30 school districts, businesses, cities, educational institutions and other entities have served as partners with MU Extension in supporting the network. 

Extension administrators will meet with their TeleCenter partners in the next few weeks to determine how the network’s assets will be dispersed and how MU will conclude its role in the partnership. Ouart said ending extension’s role makes sense given how technology, and especially the Internet, has evolved. There has been a “blurring of the lines” between distance learning and Internet-delivered coursework, and that should be looked at, he said.

“The kinds of things we are doing are now being delivered by the Internet,” he said. 

The university also announced Monday that the extension’s e-learning programs be placed under new leadership, although who will take over the programs has not yet been decided. Ouart said Tom Henderson, former director of MU Extension and former assistant to the provost for economic development, will lead the realignment. 

MU Extension offers courses during the academic year through Mizzou Online, as well as online graduate-level coursework to nurses and teachers. Another extension program, the Center for Distance and Independent Study, offers online classes for students who want to study at their own pace.

Other changes announced Monday will transfer KBIA, KKTR and KAUD —  the university’s mid-Missouri public radio stations  —  and the University Concert Series to MU’s Office of Administrative Services. The Missouri Film Office, which brings filmmakers to the state, will join the Office of the Vice Provost for Economic Development.

Ouart said the realignment is in anticipation of a $2.7 million cut in the extension’s general operating budget for fiscal year 2012, which starts July 1. He said it was “no accident” that the realignment is occurring now, less than two months before the next session of the Missouri General Assembly. 

The extension’s role has been the subject of discussion in Jefferson City in recent years, Ourta said, and the “proactive” changes announced Monday could head-off talk of additional cuts.

“We have been front and center the last two years, and it would be nice not to be for a year,” he said. “This is an opportunity to take charge of our future to benefit the people we serve.”

In a statement, Deaton said the realignment is part on ongoing examination of MU’s programs and operations to assure the most efficient use of resources. 

The realignment will not effect several locally delivered extension projects, including FastTrac NewVenture, created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs; the Old North Partnership and Community Grocery in St. Louis; My Activity Pyramid to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers; 4-H science, engineering, math and technology projects for Missouri youth and teens; and on-the-job professional training for firefighters, union workers, law enforcement officers and others who want to update their skills while remaining employed.

 “MU Extension will continue its long history of providing local programs to Missouri’s citizens that help create healthier families, more businesses, better communities, stronger agriculture, and an overall better quality of life,” Deaton said.