MU budget battle continues

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COLUMBIA - MU can expect another year of cuts in its 2019 budget.

The university is currently facing a shortfall of $49 million, due to lower enrollment, unavoidable costs and strategic investments, according to an announcement Thursday from Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and Vice Chancellor for Finance Rhonda Gibler.

Gibler said the shortfall could easily have been much greater. 

"When you start looking at what the original suggestion from the state was, and if you look at basically flat enrollment on the freshman level, we were looking at scenarios of a $70 million or more gap," she said.

Cartwright said the shortfall required cuts from a number of departments, schools and colleges, some as much as 12 percent. He said he realizes consecutive years of budget cuts have put a great strain all MU departments.

"We've cut as much as we can cut, but yet we're being asked to cut more and that's what's really difficult about this. Even at those lower percentages its still a significant task, for people to figure out things they will cut," he said. 

The cuts include the elimination of 185 positions (with 30 layoffs), reduction of school/college travel, the elimination of courses with low enrollment, reduced sponsorship of community events and moving a number of print publications to online.  

Cartwright said all decisions were made with student education in mind.

"We had to protect our core," he said. "How do we provide the services that are needed for our students? How do we allow them to get the education they need?"

Cartwright said some money will be spent on a number of strategic investments in students, faculty, staff and the campus.

"You can't cut your way to excellence. While we will be scaling back certain activities, we continue to move forward with major investments such as financial aid for our students and the Translational Precision Medical Complex," he said.

An additional $8 million has been put towards scholarships and making in student housing and dining rates less expensive. Another $6.2 million is going to fund performance and merit-based raises available for all faculty and staff. 

Other investments include an expansion of clinical services in the School of Health Professions, new video conference equipment for the College of Education, a new Student Affairs Coordinator to help students connect with campus resources and new wireless access and technology in the Student Center.

According to Cartwright, even with the cuts, the university still has a responsibility stay fiscally efficient while maintaining a high standard of education.

"That's what we owe. We owe it to everyone to be good stewards of the money we're given by the state and by the people who pay tuition to come to this institution and we're committed to that," he said.

The new fiscal year begins on July 1. The Chancellors website has more information on the budget.