University of Missouri announces budget cuts, hiring freeze

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2016 9:29 PM

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — An anticipated enrollment decline of 1,500 students following protests that roiled the University of Missouri has forced the college to cut general revenue budgets by 5 percent and institute a hiring freeze to help close a projected $32 million shortfall.

Interim University of Missouri Chancellor Hank Foley sent a memo to the campus on Wednesday detailing the moves, the Columbia Daily Tribune (bit.ly/1py0K0h) reported.

"I am writing to you today to confirm that we project a very significant budget shortfall due to an unexpected sharp decline in first-year enrollments and student retention this coming fall," Foley wrote in the memo.

Foley's memo did not address the protests, which stemmed from what some students perceived as indifference by university administrators to racial discrimination. But officials have said they believe the turmoil, which culminated with the resignations of the former system president and campus chancellor, contributed to the enrollment decline.

Vice Chancellor Gary Ward discussed the university's budget Wednesday at a meeting of the regional economic development board, where he said the budget gap will affect hundreds of university employees.

"Realize most of our expenses are people," Ward said. Take "$32 million, and look at an average salary of $40,000, $50,000, and we're talking about hundreds and hundreds of positions impacted."

The 5 percent cut would eliminate about $20 million of the shortfall, Ward said, leaving the university with a $10 million gap. He stressed that the revenue drop was independent from threatened legislative cuts to state funding.

The Missouri House on Tuesday cut $1 million from the Columbia campus' allocation of state money and $7.6 million from the University of Missouri System's administrative funding. That measure still needs a final vote in the House and consideration in the Senate.

The hiring freeze will allow only jobs "absolutely necessary to the mission" to be filled, Foley wrote. Other steps to close the budget gap include eliminating raises except in conjunction with a promotion, or tapping reserves for the remaining $10 million.

University administrators initially expected a drop of 900 students in the fall, but now peg that figure at 1,500. The revenue shortfall will be ongoing as a smaller freshman class moves toward graduation, Foley wrote.

At the economic development board meeting, several members encouraged other members to use any political leverage they have to pressure lawmakers considering cuts to the university's funding.

"If you have any political clout with people outside of our district . we desperately need help there," Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick told the group.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com