UM System to boost investment in its four campuses by $260 million

This story was republished with permission from the Columbia Missourian.

After managing $180 million in budget cuts and reallocations over the last two years, the University of Missouri System is charting a new course.

UM System President Mun Choi announced Friday a vision for the system: making the four campuses more affordable and accessible, scaling back what isn’t working and becoming more strategic.

As part of the vision, the system will put $260 million into strategic investments over the next five years, make a number of senior university appointments and launch programs to support students and Missouri businesses.

“It’s now time to make meaningful investments to achieve excellence,” Choi said to a full house at the Missouri Theatre. “We will take actions that put Missourians first and invest only in areas that support our new vision for the university. We will be more innovative in all we do and break away from traditions that impede excellence.”

The investments target scholarships, research and faculty incentives. They include:

  • $100 million in scholarships, which will be broken into “Promise & Opportunity” need-based scholarships and “Next Generation Merit Scholarships” for Missouri students who excel academically;
  • $50 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Translational Precision Medicine Complex with the technology to help researchers answer complex medical questions;
  • $50 million for research and creative works to spur collaborative proposals that receive more external research funding;
  • $20 million for digital learning initiatives to expand online opportunities, reduce traditional education costs and raise the number of online degrees granted;
  • $12 million for the Missouri Compact Distinguished Professorships, which will help the four campuses attract National Academies members to increase scholarly and research output;
  • $10 million for engagement and additional industry partnerships.
    Choi, the four chancellors and senior university officials will evaluate the funds this fall before making final selections. The UM System will provide the one-time money for the investments and expects matches from each campus. To fund the investments, the system is taking money from cuts and allocations made at the system administrative level and through good financial management of current investments. MU spokesman Christian Basi later clarified the system expects to receive more than $50 million per year over the next five years.

The scholarships have the potential to total $400 million if the four campuses match the $100 million, Choi said. The proposed scholarships will be in addition to the Missouri Land Grant Compact, a need-based scholarship for MU students that began this fall.

The Translational Precision Medicine Complex was approved by the Board of Curators in November, and Cartwright announced in August that College of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa will oversee the public-private partnership to “ensure MU is on the cutting edge of this field.”

“I feel completely confident in saying what we have here cannot be matched anywhere else,” Loboa said in one of several promotional videos presented during Choi’s speech.

The complex will be built at College Avenue and Hospital Drive and is scheduled to open in fall 2021.

Investments in research have been complemented by research summits the system has been holding on each campus, Choi said. Missouri University of Science and Technology held a cybersecurity summit in April, and MU hosted a precision medicine summit in June. UMKC will hold a summit next week, and UMSL will have one in November.

Choi said $8.5 million will go toward recruiting and retaining faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.

Faculty and staff will get an additional $7.5 million to improve university culture, establish orientation programs for new employees and create professional development programs. Choi, in a press conference after the speech, said he doesn’t believe this is enough money, but the investment will help build the foundation for solid recruitment.

Establishing a more diverse faculty will come as a result of hiring from top universities all across the country and following a focused approach, Choi said after the speech.

“(Diversity) is everyone’s job,” Susan Wilson, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at UMKC, said in a promotional video aired during the event. “So everyone throughout the university is doing something to advance diversity and inclusion.”

A salary increase for faculty and staff might also be on the horizon; Choi announced a five-year plan meant to raise faculty and staff salaries.

Students will also see more opportunities when new programs launch in the near future. Choi announced a partnership called Missouri Intern Connect, which will give students work opportunities across the state. The program is in cooperation with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and supported by the Missouri Small Business & Technology Developments Centers.

Another initiative, the EQ Student Accelerator, will offer alumni mentors and resources to student entrepreneurs. A third development effort includes the new UM System Buy Missouri program, which will give Missouri businesses preference for supplies, services and equipment.

In the UM System’s ongoing effort to further develop its stature as the backbone of Missouri and increase its brand across the country, Choi announced two senior university appointments. One is Bill Turpin, CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center, who will lead economic development efforts for MU and the system.

To achieve the innovation that Choi outlined, the UM System is also creating the position of chief transformation officer, which will be held by UMSL Chief Financial Officer Rick Baniak.

The system still faces a $160 million shortfall between now and 2023, Choi said. He said he expects about half of that shortfall to be made up through areas such as increased enrollment and online education. The four campuses will have to find additional ways to make up the other $80 million, Choi said.

In late August, Chancellor Alexander Cartwright sent the latest draft of MU’s strategic plan in an email to students, staff and faculty to solicit further input before the Board of Curators considers it in its meetings next week.

“We can’t achieve any of the initiatives that I’ve outlined without our most important assets — that’s our people,” Choi said.

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