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Advancing Missouri: A message from Interim President Steve Owens

Feb. 22, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

As the search for a new system president gets under way during the next several months, I will provide you with updates via this e-letter on continuing strategic initiatives and a range of topics that may be of interest to you. As always, if you have questions, you may e-mail me at

Stephen J. Owens

Statewide presidential search forums planned

The University of Missouri System Presidential Search Committee is hosting seven statewide forums in March to hear from our fellow citizens about their expectations and aspirations for the next president of the University of Missouri System. These forums will be held in Portageville (3/3), St. Louis (3/7), Kansas City and St. Joseph (3/8), Columbia (3/14), and Springfield and Rolla (3/15). For more information on the presidential search, please visit this special section on the system's Web site: This site will be updated regularly throughout the search process, and it is also the "go-to" location to submit candidate nominations and learn the latest information on progress of the search.

Board of Curators raises tuition on average 5.5%

After careful consideration and discussion, our Board of Curators approved an increase in undergraduate tuition and required fees by an average 5.5 percent across our four campuses, effective with the upcoming summer session. For more information, visit:

This decision follows two years of no tuition increases. Importantly, our campuses will use a portion of the increase to help our neediest students maintain affordable access to a high-quality education on our campuses.

As you know, we now face a proposed 7 percent cut in state appropriations for the FY2012 year ahead, on top of last year's 5.2 percent reduction — or 12.2 percent in the past two years. Even with this modest tuition increase, we face a $42 million funding gap for FY 2012 that will need to be closed across the system and campuses through increasingly difficult decisions. Since FY2000, state support has fallen nearly 30 percent while adding more than 17,000 students.

In case you were not able to listen to the meeting on Jan. 27, I have posted my report to the board at:

Missouri S&T Chancellor Carney to retire this year

Chancellor John F. (Jack) Carney III recently announced plans to retire at the end of August, after leading Missouri S&T to extraordinary heights over the past six years. We stand in awe of his leadership and the impact he has had in moving our Rolla campus onto the national stage in a major way. We will begin the search process for his successor this spring and coordinate with the board's search for a new president. For more information:

Advancing Missouri campaign launched

At the board meeting in January, Curator Chair Warren Erdman launched a year-long initiative spotlighting the many ways the four campuses of the University of Missouri System "Advance Missouri" in numerous dimensions — from the education of our students and health of our fellow citizens to the creation of new jobs.

Curator Erdman introduced three videos featuring UMSL's optometry van, Mizzou's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and UMKC's medical school as examples of how the university is advancing the health of Missourians. Then our four chancellors provided an in-depth look at how their campuses are Advancing Missouri Health across the breadth of the university's teaching, research, service and economic development mission. In aggregate, it is clear that no other organization in this state — public or private — advances Missourians' health in as many ways as the University of Missouri.

The March board meeting in Rolla will feature the many ways the four campuses of the University of Missouri are "Advancing Missouri Competitiveness," especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

The system will soon launch a new Advancing Missouri Web site that will spotlight the many ways our faculty, staff, students and alumni are playing a vital role in our state's current and future success. Stay tuned!

Capital forums

As you know, we have a need to expand or build new facilities on our campuses. Last year, we began hosting "capital forums" with campus-area developers and other members of the business community, along with other potential investors, to explore possible collaborations to finance joint-use facilities that could meet mutual needs. We are scheduling similar forums in Rolla and Kansas City in the next few months. We will keep you apprised of progress achieved through these discussions.

Legislative testimony posted

As part of the annual legislative session, I addressed two committees last week about the university's operating budget needs and challenges for FY2012. You can see my comments to the House Appropriations -Education Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee at Slides supporting this testimony are available at:

Retirement plan project status

The retirement plan advisory committee formed to work with Betsy Rodriguez, vice president for human resources, held its last meeting Feb. 18 to finalize its recommendations. This group has been reviewing the university's current Defined Benefit Plan and evaluating the impact of a shift to a Defined Contribution Plan or some other alternative for future employees only. Our objective is to protect and preserve the retirement benefits of our current employees and retirees, and develop a new plan designed for long-term viability that is fair and attractive to future employees. We hope to bring a recommendation to the board later this year. For more details, visit

Waiver request filed with Missouri Dept. of Higher Education

The university has filed a request with the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) for a waiver of statutory penalties because our 5.5 percent tuition increase is higher than the maximum authorized by the Higher Education Student Funding Act. We believe this waiver is warranted given the extraordinary operating challenges we face with the prospect of a 12.2 percent funding cut over the past two years, our significant enrollment growth, energy and healthcare cost increases, and the need to ensure quality instruction.

Our request — which provides an in-depth perspective and graphic depiction of the university's productivity despite the decade decline in state funding — has been posted to the system's Web site:

Economic development

We continue to invest in Missouri's economic growth with important gains in the number of startup companies, licensing agreements and overall sponsored expenditures in research, instruction and public service. This important success story is captured in the 2010 annual report posted to our Web site at

Ongoing strategic initiatives

eLearning: We are expanding our eLearning programs and investing in building a single "portal" through which Missouri students of all ages will increasingly have access to the best faculty and programs on all four of our campuses. This capability — along with our on-campus programs — will play a major role in achieving the governor's expectations for more Missouri students getting college degrees. It will also help students and their parents save money and address the growing needs of Missouri businesses for more educated employees as they face increased global competition. Our success in this area will make education more convenient for students, provide enhanced learning opportunities for students online and in our classrooms, and provide important new revenue streams to help us meet our growing budget challenges. One need not look too far to see the dramatic growth in online learning for students at public and private educational institutions.

Shared Services: We continue to make important progress on our shared services initiative. We have completed a systemwide benchmarking study of HR, finance, IT and procurement functions and determined that many processes are operating at a "world class" efficiency level. We also prioritized areas of opportunities for improvement this year, including: electronic travel and expense reimbursement; electronic personnel action processing; and enhanced time and attendance reporting.

Accountability measure results available

The first annual reporting on results of the set of accountability measures that President Forsee, the chancellors and the board agreed upon in December 2009 have been posted to our Web site: While we all were pleased to see solid progress against our strategic goals, we also see areas where our performance must continue to improve. We are committed to reviewing them every year with our Board of Curators.

Advancing Missouri: A message from Interim President Steve Owens