Curators discuss Deaton Institute, higher education funding

Friday’s announcement comes after Deaton declared he will retire.

In a meeting that UM System President Tim Wolfe called historic, the UM Board of Curators spoke out against a Missouri House bill that could force a tuition increase of 8-16 percent and praised outgoing Chancellor Brady Deaton’s legacy at MU. Thursday morning’s meeting focused on the 2015 UM System budget and MU strategic plan.

Brady and Ann Institute for Leadership and International Development

As Deaton announced his resignation as chancellor Tuesday, he also announced plans for a new initiative. Deaton unveiled his next steps Friday by explaining his plans for the new Brady and Ann Institute for Leadership and International Development.

The board voted unanimously to approve the institute, which will focus on food safety, water quality and health care around the world. The institute will work with other land-grant universities to conduct research and work with international governments and private sector organizations on global security issues.

“I’m very excited for these next steps,” Deaton said. “We’re doing this also because some of the most needy people in the world will benefit from this.”

Deaton said international issues inspired him to pursue a doctoral degree and get involved in higher education. He said he hopes the institute will establish MU as a leader in the field of international environmental security and food security research and education.

“I’ve realized on a day-to-day basis how much more we need to know about so many of these areas, in spite of all the work we do,” Deaton said. “If you look at the faces of hungry children in these settings, it inspires you to do something about it.”

Deaton will head the institute after his retirement takes effect Nov. 15.

“I’m sad that you’re stepping down this fall; however, I’m delighted that you’ll continue to have a connection to Mizzou,” Wolfe said.

Deaton received multiple standing ovations from the board and meeting attendees who honored his 25 years at MU. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities left Deaton a video message praising his work as chancellor and wishing him luck in running the institute.

“Finding someone of your academic stature and leadership strength will not be easy, but it will be my top priority in the months ahead,” Wolfe told Deaton.

Higher Education Funding

The curators also expressed concern regarding Missouri House Bill 253, which called for a decrease in Missouri state taxes and would significantly reduce revenue statewide. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill on June 5, but the House and the Senate approved the bill by wide enough margins to override the veto in the fall.

The tax decrease HB253 proposes would cause Missouri to lose between $800 million and $1.2 billion, which would lead to an estimated 10 percent decrease in revenue for the UM System, University Relations Vice President Steve Knorr said.

For the UM System to make up the funding cuts, the board would have to consider an 8-16 percent increase in tuition, Wolfe said. Tuition increases have recently averaged about 2 percent per year.

“I’m not opposed to tax cuts as long as we’re completing the equation by finding revenue elsewhere or finding where those expense cuts can be made,” Wolfe said. “But that’s not what’s happening with House Bill 253.”

The curators discussed the consequences of the Kansas bill after which HB253 was modeled. After the Kansas bill passed, the University of Kansas suffered revenue losses and raised its tuition by 4.4 percent.

“This is very, very problematic for higher education in the state of Kansas,” Wolfe said.

In Missouri, higher education funding has declined for more than a decade; although, 2013 funding is higher than it has been in recent years. Funding is currently $100 million lower than a funding high point in 2001, Knorr said at the beginning of the meeting. MU’s funding alone has fallen by $54 million. ]

Alternatives to raising tuition include wage cuts, enrollment caps, reducing state financial aid, class reductions or textbook tax increases, Wolfe said.

“These are not the kind of choices we want to make,” Wolfe said. “But the reality is these are the kind of choices that will have to be considered if House Bill 253 does go through.”

Budget Approval and Strategic Plan

The first session of the curators’ meeting was to approve the fiscal year 2014 budget for the UM System, which totaled $2.9 billion.

“Our goal was to improve the university in a way that promotes student learning and can serve the state,” Deaton said.

Expenditures are projected to be $2.8 billion, including salary increases and wage benefits between 1.5 and 3 percent, John Fougere, the director of communications at the Department of Economics, said. Benefit costs for medical and retirement plans will increase by 1.5 percent of benefit-eligible salaries. The university’s operating budget totals $1.1 billion.

The money MU receives from the total fiscal year 2014 budget will be used for a new strategic plan. Deaton said the plan features an initiative to increase research by raising salaries and hiring faculty members. He said research should focus on medicine, feeding the future, sustainability issues and communication systems for the future.

“It’s a challenge for the campus and ensures that everyone on the campus is looking at our strategic plan to make the hard choices about what to do and what not to do,” Deaton said.

Vivian Qian contributed to this report.

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