January 26, 2012
We are writing to let you know we are assessing the budgetary impact of the recent recommendation that our state appropriations be cut for FY2013 by 12.5 percent, or $50 million. This represents a reduction that will pose significant financial challenges for our students and their families as well as our university colleagues. It also will affect our ability to pursue our unique statewide responsibilities of teaching, research, economic development and service in the same manner as we have in the past.
Over this past decade, we have remained committed to being good stewards of all public and private funds invested in our university. We also have continued to focus on our unique ability as the state’s land-grant university to advance our state in many dimensions—from education and health to the economy and job creation. During this time we have achieved important operating efficiencies and improved program effectiveness across our mission. We have reduced administrative overhead, cut travel and other expenses, deferred necessary maintenance and repairs on our facilities, and left hundreds of positions unfilled. For the past several years we also have pursued “shared services” in information technology, human resources and our finance operations to improve the cost-effectiveness of our administrative functions.
At the same time, despite declining state funding, we have added more than 17,000 additional students to systemwide enrollment (with more than 73,000 students today), increased our annual research programs, improved our student retention and graduation rates, expanded the awarding of undergraduate science, technology, engineering, math and health care degrees by 40 percent in the past decade, and provided tens of millions of dollars more in annual uncompensated health care for our fellow citizens than we did a decade ago.
We also have maintained our commitment to doing all we can to help students gain affordable access to our campuses. From 2001 to 2011, we increased the student financial aid available from our institutions (in the form of grants, loans and employment) by 80 percent—from $143 million to $257 million annually. During the same period, financial aid provided to students from the state increased just 4 percent—from $16 million to $16.6 million.
These achievements are a direct credit to you, our faculty and staff, who have placed a priority on upholding our historic mission with a focus on quality education. In stepping up to these budgetary challenges, you have taken on more responsibilities, gone without salary increases, and have begun supplementing university contributions to your retirement plans.
Our university today is essentially operating with a funding level equivalent to state appropriations in the mid-1990s. The proposed level of state support for FY2013 likely will mean additional job losses, research program reductions, the loss of faculty to competing schools, further deterioration of our facilities and cutbacks in our ability to extend our teaching, research and service to citizens across the state. It also means our campuses’ competitive rankings in college guidebooks will decrease since much of the data behind these rankings are so heavily influenced by financial support.
While we will continue to look for additional sources of revenue, which will of necessity include tuition increases, we are now very carefully and thoughtfully reviewing all of our options to determine where we can most appropriately target this funding cut. In doing so, we are being guided by these key principles:
- Our top priority is to continue to maintain and enhance the quality of the student academic experience;
- Any budget reductions or reallocations will be consistent with the vision and strategic priorities outlined in campus and system strategic plans; and
- We will make hard decisions about what we will continue to do with available resources, determine what we can no longer continue to do, and develop a plan to discontinue the latter.
We will discuss a number of short- and long-term options with our Board of Curators in early February, along with our recommendations for tuition and fees. We continue to hope that as our state looks to build a stronger and brighter economy, our fellow citizens and leaders will fully appreciate the vital role that public higher education plays in the future of our children, our state and our nation.
As we move forward together, the university remains committed to working with the governor and the legislature to find ways to adequately fund public higher education and to maintain the quality and excellence that Missourians rightfully expect from the university.
Stephen J. Owens
Brady J. Deaton
Thomas F. George
Leo E. Morton
Warren K. Wray