Curators meet to address budget reduction, retirement benefits

The UM System is considering capping enrollment.

The UM System Board of Curators convened at the Reynolds Alumni Center on Thursday and Friday to discuss retirement benefits and faculty salaries.

Several options to address Gov. Jay Nixon’s recent 8.1 percent cut in state appropriations for the system were also discussed. Those options, none of which Vice President of Finance and Administration Nikki Krawitz said were desirable, include:

Capping enrollment

State monetary support for full-time students has dropped to historical lows. This places stress on advising and other student services. The board discussed the near inevitability of an enrollment cap occurring sometime in the future, but not necessarily the near future.

Reducing financial aid

When the tuition increase was passed in January, the system was planning to set aside 20 percent of the increased revenue to provide more need-based student aid. If the state appropriations cut remains the same, the system will no longer be able to follow through with this.

Placing a surcharge on students

Although this would allow the system to avoid cutting aid and capping enrollment, the board didn’t want to have to resort to this option.

“Understand that these are things that we have just thrown out on the table,” Krawitz said.

Board Chairman Warren Erdman’s thoughts on the matter ran in line with Krawitz’s.

“When you’re backed into a corner, there’s only so much you can do,” Erdman said.

Despite the cut in state appropriations, the board saw it integral to increase the faculty salary pool. To hold on to current employees, the board voted to increase the faculty salary pool by 2 percent. This is something Chancellor Brady Deaton has noted as a top priority in the past. Not all faculty members will receive a raise, but rather employees whose work is seen to be exemplary.

In perhaps its most controversial move, the board voted to adopt a new retirement benefits package. Exact details of the plan have yet to be laid out – the board voted to simply close the current package and begin working on a new plan that will be presented to the board in October.

Some curators – specifically Wayne Goode and Don Downing – wondered why adopting a new plan was necessary, as they argued the current plan has no blaring problems. Erdman said the system determined changing the policy was important for attracting potential employees. These changes will only affect faculty members employed after Sept. 30, 2012.

The board also made the grievance policy that had been in place as a pilot program since 2008 official. Faculty members can file a grievance against another faculty member or administrator if they feel they have violated a rule.

MU’s Animal Resources Center project was approved. The project, which was originally submitted in 2004, will be filled with mainly swine for research.

The board’s next meeting is July 22 via Teleconference, where it will discuss and approve the system’s state appropriations request.

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