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From the Office of the President

April 8, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

Here are some updates on activities over the past six weeks. As always, please feel free to email me with questions or comments at:

Stephen J. Owens
Interim President

Presidential search update

During the first two weeks of March the Presidential Search Committee held seven forums across the state attended by nearly 200 of our fellow Missourians. Forum attendees' comments were considered by the search committee and consolidated into a set of "presidential qualifications" now posted on our website at:

We were pleased to hear the overwhelming appreciation for the leadership and achievements of our former president, Gary Forsee, whose strategic priorities are "in progress" and will continue under the leadership of our next president. A national ad seeking qualified candidates will be placed shortly by our executive search firm - Greenwood/Asher & Associates. Nominations for candidates meeting these qualifications are invited via email or phone. Contact information can be found at:

Tuition penalty waiver granted by MDHE

The commissioner of higher education last month approved our request for a waiver on penalties associated with the university's 5.5 percent average tuition/fee increase for in-state undergraduate students. We're pleased that the commissioner believed our request was "strongly supported by quantifiable information" -- including, as posted at

  • Over the past three years, the total tuition increase for the University of Missouri is only slightly more than 1% above the CPI change for that same period (5.5% compared to 4.3%), whereas the decrease in state appropriations over that same period (including the proposed 7% decrease for FY 2012) is approximately 12.2%. This combination of modest or no tuition increases coinciding with sharp declines in state appropriations represent extraordinary historical circumstances.
  • The University of Missouri has undertaken a number of measures over the past decade to cut, avoid, or defer operating costs. Those measures have totaled more than $247 million since FY 1998.
  • The financial situation in its entirety presents evidence that there are legitimate concerns about maintaining quality in academic programs, student services, and physical facilities.

MU Health Care update

Dr. Hal Williamson Jr., vice chancellor of University of Missouri Health System, provided curators with hospital outcomes data and quality improvement initiatives at the recent meeting in Rolla, including:

  • A significant decline in health care-related staph infections since 2002;
  • A significant decline in ventilator-associated pneumonia rates since 2003; and
  • Overall surgical infection rates that are significantly lower than benchmarks set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Healthcare Safety Network. The data show that in 2009, overall surgical infection rates were approximately 25% lower than national benchmarks for similar hospitals - and 32% lower than the national average in 2010.

You can listen to his presentation at: To view the graphs related to the data above, please visit:

National survey of university presidents

An Inside Higher Education survey of 956 higher education presidents indicated the two most important issues confronting their institutions during the next few years are budget shortfalls and changes in state aid.

Next on the list of concerns for presidents of public-doctoral universities was maintaining the quality of academic programs and rising tuition/affordability. While these concerns mirror ours, and we're addressing these challenges in similar fashion, I shared with the curators the university also has pursued strategies that fewer than half the presidents at public-doctoral universities have used. Unlike the majority of presidents participating in the survey, we can take particular pride that we are also dealing with the economic crisis by partnering with other colleges; expanding online learning; freezing administrative and academic hires; and increasing public-private partnerships. For more details on this survey and what we're doing to address the economic downturn, visit:

Academic program review

As you're aware, we recently completed our academic program review in which we identified 32 "low-degree producing" programs that we will close. I commend Gov. Jay Nixon and Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell for their recognition of the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM) during this review. They acknowledged that even though some STEM programs grant relatively few degrees today, we must preserve them as an investment in the state's future growth and competitiveness. To see the full report:


Retirement plan update

As you know, last year we began a thorough review and long-term look at our retirement plan, with particular assistance from the Retirement Plan Advisory Committee. This committee provided us with their final report last month:

Because this report was not final until approximately 10 days before the Board of Curators meeting, and because we still have some education and communication work to do, we did not ask the curators to take action on this plan at the March meeting.

Search for Missouri S&T chancellor

A national search will begin this spring for candidates to succeed Chancellor John F. ("Jack") Carney III, who announced plans to retire at the end of August. This search will be coordinated with the search for our next system president, with the new president making the final selection of the next chancellor in Rolla. A campus forum on the chancellor's search is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. April 14 at 204 McNutt Hall on the Rolla campus.

Economic development update

Missouri S&T's Innovation Park is now open and research undertaken there is expected to help secure Missouri S&T's place as one of the top five technology universities in the nation. The Missouri Plant Science Center also opened in Mexico last month. This center is a joint venture between the City of Mexico, Mo., the Missouri Technology Corporation and the university. Soy Labs Inc. (from California) has moved in as the first tenant and started hiring.

Legislative update

The Missouri House has elected to follow the governor's recommendation for a 7 percent reduction to all two- and four-year institution core appropriations. Under this plan, the University of Missouri would receive $398.2 million for FY12. In other news, there are bills moving through the House and Senate that would allow for at least one, but no more than two, curators from each congressional district. For more information, see the Legislative Update newsletter at:

Budget news

Despite the planned tuition and fee increase, the proposed 7 percent cut in state appropriations for FY2012 will leave the university with at least a $53 million budget shortfall. This gap is larger than we reported in January largely because of the inclusion of additional operations in the budget. We will bring a final budget to the board in June that will identify how we intend to address this funding gap.

Advancing Missouri Competitiveness

At the recent curator meeting, Board Chair Warren Erdman introduced the system's new website and short videos to launch the important discussion of what the system is doing to positively affect our state's competitiveness, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. In addition, the chancellors took an in-depth look at what each of their campuses are doing in this regard. To see their presentations, visit:

UM System leads collaboration
on statewide education grant initiative

Missouri's public four-year institutions won $250,000 in Next Generation Learning Challenges funds to redesign 13 high-enrollment undergraduate courses using innovative and technology-based learning tools to improve student learning, persistence and program completion, as well as reduce instructional costs. Each university will redesign one course that is common to all institutions guided by the principles and practices of the National Center for Academic Transformation, a well-known national leader in course redesign.

The state's public higher education collaboration was one of only 29 selected from a pool of 600 applicants. This initiative is a direct outgrowth of Gov. Jay Nixon's public agenda for higher education announced in August 2010. The University of Missouri System is providing administrative grant support for the group's work during the next 15 months.

"This funding will provide all of us with an opportunity to pursue an unprecedented level of collaboration on a broad academic agenda, with a laser focus on providing a quality education experience for students," said Christa Weisbrook, faculty fellow at the University of Missouri System who is coordinating the initiative among Missouri's higher education institutions.

Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell said the grant will be supplemented by an additional $240,000 from the state's public universities, $100,000 from the state and $15,000 from the Missouri Department of Higher Education.
For more info:

Advancing Missouri: A message from Interim President Steve Owens