MU colleges brace for budget cuts with changes to faculty, resources

New buildings may be put on hold, and vacated faculty positions may remain unfilled.

Vacant faculty positions and changes to research funding and classroom resources are among the effects schools and colleges may see after the most recent round of budget cuts.

After the state legislature announced a $20 million withholding from the university’s budget for fiscal year 2017, each academic and administrative unit must cut a set amount of their budget based on their funding from university and reserve accounts.

The School of Medicine has the largest required cut, at $3.1 million, followed by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with $1.4 million. Deans and division administrators have until the end of June to determine how the cuts will be made within their units.

For the School of Nursing, plans to construct a new building may be put on hold. Dean Judith Fitzgerald Miller said that half of the school’s $431,000 in required cuts will come out of the school’s plant fund, which typically goes toward capital projects like new facilities, and the other half will be pulled from the school’s reserve funds.

“The future contemporary structure to prepare more nurses for the state and nation may be delayed,” Fitzgerald Miller said in an email about how the cuts may affect students in the school.

The School of Health Professions is taking a different approach. Within the school, the $215,000 mandated cut was distributed among the school’s six departments using the same formula that the chancellor’s office used to determine the allocation of the whole $20 million. Megan Gill, the school’s director of communications, said the school will prioritize jobs within the school and funding for its clinical operations.

“There are parts of our school that the Columbia and Boone County community rely on quite a bit for services, and obviously we don’t want to diminish the services we’re about to provide to the community,” she said.

She said that since enrollment within the school has been stable and it has an adequate amount in reserves, she is not aware of any specific programs that will be affected by this round of cuts.

Some units, like the School of Medicine, will be pulling their entire allocated amount out of reserve funds. MU Health spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said that though the school considers the $3.1 million it’s required to cut significant, they have not identified any programs that will be cut because of the state withholding.

The College of Education will also be pulling their whole amount out of reserve funds, according to an email from Dean Kathryn Chval. She said this could affect research and teaching resources for some faculty members.

“In some cases, faculty who had reserve funds will not have these funds to support their research and teaching,” she said in the email. “Some faculty, staff and administrators will experience increased workloads in FY 2018.”

Chval said the college will not be replacing some faculty or professional staff positions. This includes two faculty members who left last semester, two faculty members who will leave after this semester and five staff retirements so far.

However, she said the college prepared for further budget reductions during the 5 percent mandated cuts that took place before the 2016-17 academic year and that students and student services will not be impacted during this round of cuts.

Although reserve funds function much like a savings account and do not go toward the general operating costs for departments, MU spokesman Christian Basi said reserve funds are often earmarked for projects or future purchases within departments, but drawing on them does still impact the departments.

Some units are still reviewing their required withholding. James Rikoon, dean of the College of Human Environmental Sciences, said the cuts will be finalized over the next two weeks.

“Of course no division can subtract more than a quarter of a million dollars without affecting programs, either immediately or in the future, but certainly we will do our best to protect our most important assets — our students, staff and faculty,” he said in an email.

Edited by Kyle LaHucik |

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