MU out $20 million this semester after state funding cuts

University officials have yet to determine how and where cuts will be made.

Eric Greitens was sworn into office as the 56th governor of Missouri on Jan. 9 after being elected with 53% of the vote. Budget cuts, signed into action earlier this month, will take nearly $20 million dollars away from the MU budget.

MU will cope with nearly $20 million in cuts this semester because of a state funding cut made by Gov. Eric Greitens earlier this month.

University officials will determine how those shortfalls will be dealt with in the coming weeks, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

“While state leaders made cuts to line items in the state’s budget, MU leaders will be making decisions about the university’s entire amount of cuts and determining where those cuts will do the least amount of harm to our students, researchers, employees, state citizens and our economic development mission,” Basi said in an email.

Campus officials will be working around the $19.82 million overall loss that came from four different line-item restrictions in the list of cuts that the Missouri Legislature passed on Jan. 16.

Specific cuts to the university include:

-$13.7 million reduction from the university’s general operating fund, which covers administration and faculty salaries as well as facility operation costs for academic and administrative buildings.

-$4 million reduction from an MU School of Medicine expansion in Springfield.

-$2 million reduction from MU Extension, which runs educational and economic stimulation programs throughout the state

-$121,250 reduction from the University of Missouri Telehealth Network.

But the specific budgets or programs slated to lose funding may not be the ones ultimately taking the brunt of the cuts. Basi said that while the state may pull funding and suggest certain areas for it to be cut from, it is ultimately the university’s responsibility to decide how it will cover the $20 million shortfall.

Basi said there is currently no timeline for when university officials will determine how the budget will be adjusted to accommodate the cuts.

These cuts come after the university implemented measures to deal with a $36.3 million drop in tuition revenue that stemmed from a 21.1 percent decrease in freshman enrollment for the 2016-17 school year.

MU administration took steps earlier in the school year to accommodate budget shortfalls, including a mandated 5 percent reduction in each department’s budget — all of which were made by the individual schools and colleges in the ways they chose.

University administration also enacted a hiring freeze last March and eliminated the merit increase program, which rewarded high-performing faculty with pay raises, during the 2017 fiscal year.

MU is far from the only campus affected by the cuts. Of the cuts Greitens announced last Monday, over half will be taken from public college and university budgets. These cuts will take place over the course of the semester.

This is only the first round of cuts. In a video statement Greitens released on social media the day the cuts were announced, he said a total of $700 million will need to be slashed from the state’s budget. Like the most recent round of cuts, there is a possibility that university budgets could be a target for further cuts.

Steven Chaffin is the executive director of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, which advocates at the statehouse on behalf of undergraduate and graduate students at all four UM campuses. Chaffin said the trend of cutting funds from higher education to balance the state budget shouldn’t go unnoticed by students.

“That is something that concerns ASUM, and that is something that should concern every student,” Chaffin said.

Chaffin and seven other student representatives — four from MU, two from UM-St. Louis and one from Missouri S&T — meet with lawmakers in Jefferson City twice a week to inform them about the interests and needs of students who attend UM System schools.

According to ASUM’s website, university funding is one of the core parts of the organization’s platform.

“There are a number of reasons why higher education ought to be prioritized,” said Chaffin, who credited the UM System as the second-largest employer and health care provider in Missouri. “So we try to relay that to lawmakers so they are aware and can make good decisions when the budget is finally decided.”

Chaffin said students should educate themselves about the actions of the state legislature, especially about higher education funding.

“I try and be cautiously optimistic in all situations, but I do want students to be concerned because this is a big issue, and not one that has an immediate solution,” he said.

Edited by Kyle LaHucik | klahucik@themaneater.com

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