April 25, 2012 Volume 33, No. 29
MU leaders: Distance learning revenue can help offset state cuts
Out-of-state applications on the rise
Budget-saving measures, plans to increase enrollment and a new diversity initiative were discussed at the April 18 Spring General Faculty Meeting April 18 in the Student Center.
Budget Director Tim Rooney said that in the future the MU operating budget will rely more on funds from student tuition, which has been increasing, and distance learning than from state funding. This comes as state appropriations to Missouri higher education have declined in recent years.
Gov. Jay Nixon’s state budget, which the Missouri Senate is currently reviewing, asks for a 7.8 percent cut to Missouri public colleges and universities for fiscal 2013. The governor’s cuts translate to a $13 million reduction to Mizzou compared to last year’s, Rooney said.
Several factors have helped MU move closer to balancing its budget this year, Rooney said. Among them are that the Board of Curators in February voted to increase tuition by 3 percent for in-state students. Also, MU’s online distance learning programs are a growing revenue stream.
“In the past, we treated [distance learning] as one-time funds,” Rooney said. “We weren’t sure how to budget it or how regular that flow of revenue would be.”
Now that distance learning has become a popular option for students, Faculty Council is working on ways to strengthen the program and better distribute its revenues, said Faculty Council Chair Harry Tyrer. The Online Academic Programs Task Force has recommended that all online courses be given the same academic validity as courses taught in classrooms.
Mizzou budget cuts are also helping balance the numbers. Cuts have been made to subsidies for debt accrued from football stadium improvements, the Chancellor’s Academic Fund and Mizzou Advantage. One of Mizzou Advantage’s initiatives, Managing Innovation, was consolidated into its four other initiatives last January.
The added revenue and funding cuts would help facilitate the Board of Curators proposed 2 percent merit-based salary increase for employees, Rooney said. To do this, Rooney said general operating budgets for colleges would be reduced by no more than 0.8 percent.
To keep tuition revenue streams flowing, Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said the university must recruit more students from across the country and internationally. Although 25,502 of the 33,805 students enrolled in fall 2011 are in-state, those numbers have begun to change.
Out-of-state student applications now slightly outnumber in-state applications. With the universities new Southeastern Conference status, Deaton said he hopes Mizzou can recruit more high school students in southern states.
The reason is that the number of Midwest high school graduates is on the decline. According to Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Midwest schools will see a 4 percent to 10 percent decline between 2009 and 2015.
Southern states, however, are not experiencing that trend, and MU is already setting up recruiting offices in the south, Deaton said. The makeup of the student body is also changing.
The number of minority students will increase significantly, Deaton said.
Since 2002, Hispanic enrollment has increased 127 percent, and African-American enrollment has grown 69 percent, according to MU’s Division of Enrollment Management.
Deaton also said Mizzou continues to reach out to international students, particularly in China, to broaden MU’s global impact.
New diversity plan
Vice Chancellor Michael Middleton announced at the meeting, attended by about 40 faculty and staff, a new campus-wide initiative called Campus Civility.
“One of the results of [diversity enrollment] growth is that we’re having to deal with more racial and cultural tensions among groups,” Middleton said.
The driving force behind the program was the 2009 Campus Climate Research Survey. The study found that 34.8 percent of LGBTQ and 26.4 percent of “People of Color,” among other respondent groups, had experienced some form of harassment on campus.
In addition to addressing racism and harassment, Middleton said the program will address bullying and cyberbullying, which have become nationally recognized problems at all levels of public education.
— Trevor Eischen