As state fights COVID 19 UM System faces millions in budget cuts

COLUMBIA - As Missouri gears up for a long fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Missouri System leaders are looking at millions of dollars worth of budget cuts.

On Wednesday, Governor Parson announced $180 million worth of budget cuts. Parson said the state is currently looking at a $500 million shortfall between now and June.

"We have had to take hard look at our budget and make some very difficult decisions to ensure our budget is balanced and we have the funds to combat COVID-19 going forward," state budget director Dan Haug said.

According to MU spokesperson Christian Basi, those cuts will include $36.5 million from the UM System. $2.4 million will be cut from the NextGen Precision Health Institute.

In a statement, UM System President Mun Choi said MU will have to make difficult decisions in the future.

“The UM System is not alone in this challenge; businesses and higher education institutions across the country are seeing many of the same impacts," he said. "Our goal is to ensure the long-term viability and mission of the university."

The cuts are part of larger ones to higher education statewide. According to Governor Parson's office, budget cuts for four-year universities total around $61 million.

It is not clear yet where all of the cuts will come from within the UM System. Basi said the university was anticipating the budget cuts when they paused all new hires or pay increases throughout the UM System.

For some perspective on how the university has dealt with budget cuts, we can look to how they trimmed staff after former Governor Eric Greitens took an axe to the budget in 2017 and 2018. In total, he cut more than $60 million from the university.

It prompted sweeping cuts by the university in June 2017. In order to cut more than $100 million from all four campuses, 474 positions were eliminated. On the Columbia campus, 307 jobs were cut, including 42 administrators and 130 non-tenured faculty members. 35 graduate positions were also being cut. 

Among the jobs eliminated in 2017 was that of MU Health's executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer. A number of UM System executive positions were also cut.

Governor Parson said the cuts were not easy to make.

"Just as families and businesses have to balance their budgets and make hard decisions, we are doing the same," he said. "This is the right thing to do to make sure our budget is balanced and we are financially prepared to deal with the far reaching impacts of COVID-19."