Year in Brief: State colleges, universities face budget crunch

Missouri made more steep cuts to public colleges and universities in 2017, forcing several institutions to slash budgets and limit their plans for expanding programs and facilities. Financial woes for these schools are expected to continue into 2018.

Some institutions will likely look to more private donations to replenish funds. In January, Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced he would slash nearly $79 million from post-secondary education spending to make up for a tax revenue shortfall. The final version of the budget, signed on June 30, cut $88 million from higher education, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The Year in Brief looks at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2017, and that will continue to shape the state in 2018 and beyond.

The brunt of these spending cuts was dealt to the University of Missouri System, which lost nearly $36 million in state funding. To cope with the lost funding, the four-campus system cut $101 million in spending and eliminated 474 positions.

The flagship Columbia campus alone slashed 12 percent of its fiscal year 2018 budget from all schools and divisions, amounting to about $55 million. MU purged 307 jobs, including 130 non-tenured faculty members whose contracts were not renewed.

Budget woes at the UM System were compounded by lower freshman enrollment. The Columbia campus received 4,100 new freshmen this year, about 700 fewer than last year. Enrollment at MU has suffered since students protested what they declared a culture of racism in 2015, leading to the resignations of the campus chancellor and system president.

In light of its financial situation, the UM System said it would review the long-term viability of an MU Medical School expansion in Springfield and a University of Missouri-Kansas City pharmacy program partnership with Missouri State University.

Anticipating a reduction in funding, UM System curators voted in April to raise tuition by 2.1 percent.

Lincoln University also hiked its tuition by 2 percent this year to make up for lost funding. The school lost $3.8 million in state and federal appropriations, forcing it to lay off 48 faculty and staff and reduce salaries across the board by 0.5 percent, the Associated Press reports.

Trustees at the St. Louis Community College, which received $5 million less in state appropriation, voted to lay off 70 faculty and 25 staff in November. Enrollment was down from over 29,000 in 2011 to about 19,000 this year, St. Louis Public Radio reports.

Universities and colleges across the state are bracing for even deeper cuts to higher education appropriations in the future, the Post-Dispatch reports. UM System officials said it will rely on tuition, not state funding, to meet future facility needs.

Schools might no longer rely on the state to match private donations for capital projects. In June, Greitens shot down a bill that would have provided $48 million in matching funds for UMKC’s $96 million downtown arts campus project. The UM System said it would seek another source to fund the rest of the project.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education is proposing a $908 million budget for next year, just shy of this year’s $909 million budget, according to the Post-Dispatch.

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