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Jan. 18, 2012 Volume 33, No. 16

Governor emphasizes affordability in higher education


BUDGET SHORTFALL Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon delivers the State of the State address at the State Capitol in Jefferson City Jan. 17, 2012. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI


Cuts proposed to balance budget

Gov. Jay Nixon, BA ’78, JD ’81, detailed Tuesday his proposed budget for the next fiscal year that includes cuts to public colleges and universities for the third straight year.

Nixon’s $23 billion operating budget for fiscal 2013 strives to address a projected $500 million budget shortfall.

While K-12 public schools would not receive funding cuts in Nixon’s budget agenda, and in fact would receive a funding increase of $5 million in fiscal 2013, the governor is asking lawmakers to cut 816 state employee positions.

His budget outlines funding cuts for higher education of about 12.5 percent, though student scholarships such as Access Missouri, A+ program and Bright Flight will not be impacted. Funding for four-year higher education schools would be slashed by $99 million, according to Nixon’s proposal. The MU share of this cut would be approximately $27.5 million.

“I am calling on all colleges and universities to continue to look for more ways to cut overhead and administrative costs and run smarter, more efficient operations,” Nixon said in his State of the State speech.

“Higher education must continue to adapt for the modern economy,” he said. “Public colleges and universities must change their business models.”

MU Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said MU has done just that by “increasing out-of-state enrollment, growing outside research funding, raising over a billion dollars in private support, and forming global partnerships. Doing more with less has always been a hallmark of our university and defines our approach to achieving greater efficiencies. We have had no choice over the past 10 years.”

The chancellor plans to continue working with faculty, staff and student leadership on campus and within the UM System. “We will think through and take the steps that address the specific challenges of the coming fiscal year. But at the same time we will address MU’s future, including our ability to support our current enrollment, to maintain the infrastructure that undergirds our research and tech transfer enterprise, and to perform critical outreach throughout the state.”

From the UM System, interim President Steve Owens responded to the proposed budget measures in a Wednesday statement.

“For more than 10 years, higher education and the four campuses of the University of Missouri System have been doing more with less,” Owens said. “The University now receives less annual state support than we did in 2001, yet we now educate 17,000 more students, generate $85 million more in sponsored research, provide $23.5 million more in unreimbursed health care, offer a broader scope of Extension services, including free disaster relief, and create more new jobs through economic development.

“It’s fair to ask how long we can continue to do more with less,” Owens continued. “After a decade of reductions in state support and implementation of operational efficiencies, we are near the point where either the level of funding will have to increase or the scope and quality of services will have to decrease.”

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said in a statement Tuesday that the governor’s proposed university cuts were “unacceptable.

“The state’s budget has been balanced for three straight years on the back of higher education,” Schaefer said.

Cuts to state funds allocated to most Missouri public colleges and universities have been occurring for about a decade, though in recent years the cuts have become steeper.

Last summer, Nixon announced 7 percent cuts to most state higher education institutions to help balance the budget for fiscal 2012. The UM System’s allocation, however, was slashed by 8.1 percent because, Nixon said at the time, UM had inappropriately hiked tuition and fees at its campuses to an average of 5.5 percent, while MU increased student costs by 5.8 percent.

The MU allocation for campus operations for fiscal 2011 was $179 million; the fiscal 2012 allocation is $166 million.

In December, in an effort to help balance the fiscal 2013 budget, Nixon broached the possibility of asking for a loan of $106 million from the reserves of Missouri’s five largest universities, including $62.3 million from the UM System. Nixon dropped the idea early this month.