UM System Board of Curators to consider stadium expansion, financial outlook

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COLUMBIA - On Thursday, the University of Missouri System Board of Curators will select which architect scores the bid for improvements to Memorial Stadium. This marks the beginning of the End Zone Facility Project at Memorial Stadium.

Stadium Renovation

The project, budgeted at $96.7 million, aims to keep Mizzou football's facilities on par with SEC peers. The new south end zone space will include a football operations center, complete with coaches' offices, training facilities and locker rooms. It will also include premium seats, club suites and new general admission seating.

John Fougere, UM System spokesperson, said about half of the expansion's expected cost has been funded through donations, and despite the UM System's budget concerns, it is important to maintain the momentum of the project by voting on the architect. 

He said once the board approves an architect, Mizzou Athletics will have more time to fundraise and finalize its budget before the total project comes up for approval by the board later this year.

"We've seen a lot of donor support and enthusiasm on this project," said Chad Moller, associate athletic director for strategic communications for Mizzou football. "A lot of people want to get behind something that could impact the scope of the program for years to come."

If the project moves forward, renovations are expected to be completed during summer 2019.

Budget Questions

While the stadium will be expanding, the state's higher education budget will not, and the Board of Curators must determine how to maintain higher education on a lower budget during this week's meetings.

The state with held $37 million from the UM System for fiscal year 2017, spurring the four UM System campuses to economize and reduce costs.

Gov. Eric Greitens cut nearly $40 million from the University of Missouri System in his state budget proposal for fiscal year 2018.

Because the future of state funding for UM System schools remains uncertain, the Board of Curators will begin exploring the development of a long-term financial plan. The long-term plan will include a review of system costs, an exploration of additional revenue opportunities and a reassessment of UM tuition and pricing models.

Revenue from tuition and fees accounts for nearly 50 percent of fiscal year 2017's $1.21 billion total revenue.

Fougere said UM System tuition has not increased dramatically over the past several years.

"One thing the University of Missouri System has really been a national leader in over the last five to ten years is offering affordable, yet quality education," Fougere said. "The average tuition increase in the University of Missouri system has been below all of the neighboring states over the last six or seven years."

Over the past five years, in-state tuition at Missouri's public four-year universities increased by 5 percent.

If state budget cuts continue for the UM System, Fougere said the Board of Curators may have to consider strategies for raising tuition and fees.

But the UM System is designed to weather budget shortfalls, Fougere said.

"Over the last 15 years, there have been many times where we've had budget cuts," Fougere said. "What really helps in our case is the fact that we're sharing services across four campuses. If the UM System didn't exist, each campus would have to provide those services on their own."

Fougere said the overarching UM System, not each individual campus, provides human resources, information technology, government relations and general counsel support, saving the state between $80 million and $90 million in administrative costs.