Colleges and universities across the state are working to figure out how to cut costs after Gov. Eric Greitens announced a budget cut to higher education last week, including the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
Greitens cut more than $146 million in spending from the budget, including close to $68 million in core funding for public universities and community colleges. About $4.1 million is being withheld from UCM’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, according to Assistant Director of University Relations Jeff Murphy, which he said is about 8 percent of the institution’s state funding.
Greitens said the cuts are necessary because of lower-than-expected tax revenues and rising costs in Medicaid and other programs.
UCM President Charles Ambrose told local media Friday morning that the university budget operates on about 65 percent tuition and 35 percent state funding each year, which just a few years ago was the opposite.
He noted that UCM has the lowest tuition in the state, thanks to minimal tuition increases over the last six years — there were no increases during three of those years and the other three had increases of 2 percent or less to account for inflation. With these new budget cuts, and the possibility of the cuts carrying over into Fiscal Year 2018, Ambrose didn’t give a firm answer on future tuition increases but didn’t rule out the possibility.
“If in fact you’re going to have significant divestment from the state in appropriations, the first place and probably the only place institutions could go on the revenue side to make it up is tuition,” Ambrose said. “We’re going to attempt not to do that at a level that will disrupt our students’ ability to afford UCM and pay for UCM as absolutely best we can.”
With many of the questions asked, Ambrose said specific decisions are still up in the air, as UCM is looking toward long-term needs as Greitens soon presents his proposed FY18 budget.
Ambrose said he is anticipating there will be a hiring freeze through the end of the semester, as the school has several open positions, but that personnel cuts are not expected at this time. He said fee increases and program cuts are possible, but nothing has been decided. Capital improvements are also on hold.
“There’s certain steps for capital projects that we’ve not obligated ourselves to that we’ll probably delay until we know where the bottom is going to be,” Ambrose said. “… We’re really fortunate to have reserves, but we don’t want to spend capital out of those reserves until we know what our reliance is going to be to bridge to where we’re headed.”
Ambrose said he recently met with UCM Foundation leadership to discuss the anticipated lower funds.
“Our Foundation board committed to us the energy to put our fundraising focus at an all-new level, primarily driving it toward students and more particularly students with need to make certain if we do have to increase tuition, we will have an equal level of private support to help offset for those students who need it the most,” Ambrose announced.
Separate from state budget cuts, Ambrose said UCM is also concerned with its large population of international students, primarily from India, being able to get student visas to study in the United States.
“If you listen to what could be possible, there have been the threat of proposals to eliminate the H1B visa, which wouldn’t be a question if students wanted to come or not, they would not be allowed,” Ambrose said. “… This even threat of taking away the H1B has sent a lot of students to Canada.”
Ambrose said in new international students, UCM is expecting a 50 to 60 percent loss, which equates to about 5 percent of the entire UCM student population.
With both the withholds and possibility of less international students, Ambrose said UCM is facing “the perfect storm.”
“If it was just the withholds and we could maintain the enrollment, or if it was the enrollment and we didn’t have the withholds, fiscally we could reshape and resize without too much significant rethink,” he said.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.